by Aie Ree Jung, Founder and President of InKAS
There was a boy.
This little boy who had no education was a son of a poor farmer in Southern Korea
However this boy was very diligent and faithful, helping out a missionary from America running errands for him. The missionary was thankful for the boy and decided to educate him. As the boy grew he became a pastor.
When the boy turned 20 years old, he gathered the orphaned and poverty stricken children off the streets and taught them how to read and write. The boy built a meek but sturdy shelter with bits and pieces of shipwrecks to take in homeless children of all ages; and for him. As the number of these orphans grew extensively, this run-down shelter became refuge to numerous children thus establishing the first orphanage in South Korea called Gongsangwon located in Mokpo. Known as the oldest and historical orphanage in Korea, Gongsangwon has been around for the past 83 years.
The boy who now became a man was a gifted speaker. And as a pastor he preached before numerous crowds and labored diligently to earn money in order to feed all the children back “home.” People used to call him, 거지대장 (ku ji dae jang) meaning “The king of beggars”.
There was a cultured young lady from a royal family of Japan who heard about the honorable deed that this boy had done. Strongly touched by his ministry, she decided to help him out as a frequent volunteer and eventually a lifelong companion. Realizing their passion for one another and for the orphans they fell in love and conceived four beautiful children in years to come. However, the happiness didn’t last long due to the Korean War. People told the boy to run. The North Koreans were planning to execute him for his active involvement in Christianity and excessive opposition of the communist party. He knew that he couldn’t run for his life. But regardless how could he abandon the 200 or so orphans whom he now considered as his own? He predicted his hopeless survival and decided to stand his ground to protect “his” children. Tragically the boy was killed by the North Korean soldiers at the age of 29. What was his crime? Demonstrating endless love and passion. This boy’s name is Yoon Chi -Ho. My grandfather.
With my grandfather’s death my Japanese grandmother did not return to Japan but remained and filled her husband’s duty to care for the orphans. As a widow and a single mother she lived to raise over 6000 orphans in Gongsangwon. Predominant survivors of the Korean War were children and widows, thus the number of orphans was incomprehensible and aid for the neglected was non-existent due to the following poverty. Although incomplete in size and facility, my grandfather introduced the first orphanage system in Korea; he introduced the first social welfare system of helping the needy.
I myself was born and raised in Gongsangwon amongst hundreds of orphans whom I considered as my brothers and sisters. As a child I had difficulty explaining to my elementary teacher why it will take me days to write about each member of my family and why I loved them. My teachers did not know that I had an extensive family with no limits.
When I was born April 26th, 1960 the children drew lots to decide what was the best name was for the new born child. The nominated name was made by a little girl; Aie-Ree. My name does not have Chinese roots like most Korean names because it was given to me by a little girl who didn’t even know how to write her own name at that time.
From birth to childhood I had no awareness of what an orphan was. I did not understand the concept of an “orphanage” until I began to witness my friends being adopted to America, France and other countries that I haven’t heard of at my age of 6. All of a sudden my friends and play mates were gone without trace. All I was informed was that they were now living a better life overseas. And all I realized was that I missed them all so terribly. And maybe this is one of the many reasons why I decided to start InKAS (International Korean Adoptee Service.)
InKAS is a non-profit organization providing Korean adoptees and adoptive families with various post adoption services. We help Korean adoptees from fourteen different countries search their birth families and find their roots in our mother land Korea. InKAS has performed as a link between Korea and adoptive country in reintroducing Korea to many returning Korean adoptees.
Coming from my family background and history it is my aspiration to help Korean adoptees. When I worked at Holt Adoption Agency for 5 years after marriage, I counseled birth families before they gave up their children for adoption. As a social worker and professional counselor I spoke with many single mothers in process of giving up their unborn child. It was a painful process for them to accept the fact that they had to let their children go. We cried a lot together. Their hope was that their child would live a better life than what they can offer.I want Korean adoptees to be happy because I have witnessed the love and secret support of prayer of their wellbeing from their birth and adoptive families. That is why I believe in the bright future of these children.
Just as my grandfather once said, “There is no way you can go wrong as long as someone is praying for you.” My prayer goes out to you all.
InKAS (International Korean Adoptee Service, Inc.)
Post adoption services run by donations and volunteers assisting Korean blooded adoptees internationally with their birth search, motherland visits, Korean studies, scholarships and adoption related counseling. www.inkas.or.kr