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Adoption stories

Rebecca Hammer
San Jose, CA

Birth Country: South Korea
Decade of adoption: 1950s

My name is Rebecca Hammer, and I am 53 years old. I live in San Jose, California with my husband, a retired English teacher. We share four grown children and four grandchildren. I work as an administrative assistant for Pathways Health and Hospice in Sunnyvale, California.

I came to America 49 years ago from Seoul, Korea. My Korean name was Mi Rae Kim, though I was called Mita. It was 1956, and I was 3 years old. My adoption was sponsored by Christian missionaries who took me from the orphanage because I weighed only 14 pounds and was suffering from severe malnutrition. From time to time, I am still in contact with the American missionary with whom I lived for one year before coming to the United States. I know nothing of my birth parents except that my mother was Korean and my father was an American soldier.

Even though there is so much I do not know about my beginnings, I do have much to share: letters, photos and documents (many in Korean) from the orphanage in Seoul, from my adoption process through the International Social Service and from both the Korean and American governments. I was the first Korean orphan to come to Iowa in 1956 and have photos and newspaper clippings of my arrival there.

I have been so energized since looking at your Web site and now better understand why I know virtually nothing of my motherland. Many people never even guess that I am half-Korean. I think that, due to American sentiments at that time, my adoptive parents were more focused on "Americanizing" me than keeping me connected to my Korean heritage. In fact, except for liking Kim Chee, which I adore, I have absolutely no knowledge of Korea, its history, its culture or its language. I was told that my birth mother, for my survival, dropped me off at the Eden Orphanage in Seoul and walked away.

Becuase of your radio program, I suddenly feel as though a whole new opportunity to understand my past has opened before me. You have given me the impetus to do what I have before only thought about. I want to gather my documents and photos, piece as many details together as I can, and tell you my story with the dignity it deserves.

I have always felt the dichotomy of my existence. The keys to my past may remain forever unknown. I very likely could have died in Korea before my third birthday, but in being transported to America, I have thus far lived a rich, full life. I am lucky to be here.

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