by Wayne Daniel
My first thought of visiting Korea occurred in 1974 when we applied to the Holt Adoption Agency hoping that we would be allowed to adopt a little girl to add to our two boys. Julie Meeyoung joined us in 1975 as well as Jill Letitia Meesung in 1978. We tried to keep Korea alive for the entire family as we participated in Korean language classes, learned to cook popular Korean foods, visited art museums and attended Korean cultural events. Many times we offered Julie and Jill the opportunity to visit their Motherland; however, they never made the decision to travel there. Often, I thought about going even if my daughters chose not to go.
A big surprise happened at the end of Sejong Camp in August, 2010. Our granddaughter Faith, who is Julie's daughter, met us with the following, “Grandma, did you know that Sejong sponsors a trip to Korea? I want to go. Can I?” Lots of discussion as well as the Sejong staff's willingness to take a Grandma and Grandpa lead to our joining the group and departing on July 15, 2011 for Seoul, Korea.
One never quite knows what to expect when visiting a new country. My most outstanding impression was that of the people. First, there was the Sejong Staff – what a great group that made sure every detail was anticipated and fulfilled to the max! I especially enjoyed all of my interactions with Mrs. Jo and Mrs. Julia Park.
I never imagined being met at the airport with eager young people carrying multi colored balloons. Their leader, one of the ministers of Onuri Church, guided us to a bus to take us to the church where our host families were waiting as well as a delicious Korean food buffet and other church members who showered us with kind greetings.
Our host family was absolutely wonderful. We enjoyed every minute with them. Their planning was way beyond what anyone could wish. They were hospitable, helpful and gracious, even when we needed to catch a bus in downtown Seoul at 6 a.m.! I know we will meet again. Actually, everyone we met throughout the trip was friendly and wanted to be sure we were enjoying Korea.
Korea is naturally beautiful with green covered hills and mountains and lush valleys with every tillable plot growing some important crop from rice to a host of vegetables. The second stop on our trip was a plane ride from Seoul to Jeju Island, which is off the most southern coast. It is a volcanic island with hiking trails that show off its many sights. I loved the peaceful feel at Jeju as well as the many sites we visited. Few have heard of Jeju and that is regrettable for sure.
We visited Gwangju where we were hosted by Jeon Nam University faculty and students. It was great to share with all. We spent a night at Baek Yang Sa Buddhist Temple where we learned more about the religion as well as the monks' life style. On we went to Gyeongju, Daegu and the Hyundai Factory.
I would be remiss if I didn't share one of the most powerful times on the trip – the Gwangju 518 Memorial Park. Our group was invited to participate in a lighting ceremony before the magnificent monument. Over 600 persons, who lost their lives in the 1980 uprising,are buried beyond the monument in a terraced area. The museum there shows the terrible fighting that occurred in 1980. The Korean people want to remember that era as it heralded their move to a democratic nation.
Finally, we did visit the Holt Adoption Agency. No, we didn't learn anything more about Julie; however, they were so gracious to our granddaughter and sent with her items for Julie.
For those of you who have Korean roots, either by adoption, family or just interest, keep Korea alive in what you do even when there doesn't seem to be much interest for one never knows! I would urge you to travel and experience all that Korea is. I want to go again even though my dream was fulfilled beyond my wildest expectations.
- Joy Daniel
I visited the Holt Adoption agency. My mother was adopted a long time ago through Holt. My grandparents and I hoped that they could find my mother’s foster parents, but they weren’t able. I got to play with babies who were soon going to new families, and I loved that.
I was very happy to go to Korea and experience everything. I think I will be the first kid in my school to have visited Korea. I loved it so much that I might go again and spend more time seeing more of the country.
I would like to thank my Mom and the rest of my family for inspiring me to learn more of my Korean heritage.
- Faith Dawson
Perhaps my strongest impression was made by the Korean people we met. They were so nice, so friendly and really went out of their way to make our stay comfortable, enjoyable and as close to perfect as possible. The home-stay families really outdid themselves as they went to great lengths to make sure we got to our appointments in parts of Seoul with which they were unfamiliar.
I was impressed by the prosperity of the country and its people and by how modern the whole country appears to be. The cities are clean and modern, their highway system is equal to ours and the Hyundai factory we visited was world class. The Korean people have always been hard working and it shows as every available bit of arable land we could see from the bus was planted in some crop.