Sunday, August 2, 2009

Seeking Choi Un Sun

With my time in Korea running out, I'm finally on the trail of those who made this adoption happen. I've spent the past year working around the edges of this story, researching the locations and the context, and the experiences of others ... but in essence, this is what we came to Korea for - to trace Caleb's dad's story. Jimmy's immigration files arrived from the United States today, and as I'm looking through the photocopies, I'm just amazed at the wealth of information and all the potential leads. 

We now know the address where Paul and Jimmy lived at Seoul City Command, so I plan to go exploring later this week to find out what that neighborhood looks like now. We also have an address (which Caleb's grandpa told us may well have been a fake) where Caleb's dad was supposedly born. Paul went to see a laywer (whose name, I now know thanks to the immigration file, was Moon Kwang Il) for assistance in tracking down where Jimmy was born since that information was needed to process the adoption. Moon came back with an address, so Paul went out looking for the location. It was an empty lot, in a neighborhood where all the homes had been bombed into oblivion, so Paul always suspected that Moon selected it as a location that he could lie about without getting caught. Either way, I'm going searching for the spot.  

We have a wealth of new names - translators, witnesses, government officials, and maybe even the name of the prostitute (although she says she's a "rice dealer") with whom Jimmy was living when Paul met him. There's a testimony from her, describing how she came to find Jimmy and why she decided to allow Paul to take him. It may be more clever fakery by Mr. Moon, or it may be the truth. The only way to find out is to attempt to track some of these people down. At the very least, I hope I can figure out whether anyone with these names ever actually existed. 

Finally, the documents mention a woman named Choi Un Sun, who would have been about 80 years old in 1953. She claimed to be Jimmy's maternal grandmother, and told the story of his mother's death. Is this more fakery to facilitate the adoption of a child with no knowledge of his origins or could this actually be accurate? Caleb's grandpa did tell me about sending an Army translator friend out to the markets with pictures of Jimmy, in hopes of finding the boy's family, and he said that they located Jimmy's grandmother, and that it was from her that he heard about Jimmy's American father. If the story is true, might Caleb be able to use this information to find distant relatives here in Korea??? I know that after 50 years, finding any of these people is a long shot, but today, after endless months of dead ends and disappointment, the potential glimmering there amid these photocopied pages is nothing less than exhilarating!

Below, I include images of what I believe are Jimmy's original Korean adoption papers and family register. I hope to have them translated soon, in case they contain additional details that were not included in the "official" Army translation done in 1953. The copies are a bit fuzzy, and I think there are Korean letters and Chinese characters, as well as some Japanese text, so it could be a little tricky, but definitely worth the the effort!

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