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BLOG: My adoption takes another interesting turn

By Michelle Li, mli@wisctv.com
Published On: May 07 2014 03:31:45 PM CDT
Updated On: May 08 2014 07:22:15 AM CDT
Michelle and Hyun Jeong

Korean adoption via Michelle Li

I am very open about my adoption because somehow it's become a very big part of who I am.

I am Korean-born, but I grew up in rural Missouri.  I went hunting and fishing and jumped hay bales for fun.  No joke.

But in 1998, something changed my life and made me look at the world with different eyes.  I went back to Korea to visit my 'birthland' and see the sights and sounds of South Korea.  I went to my adoption agency, Holt International, and asked to open my file.  I looked at it and noticed that my mom Sharon had sent in a bunch of pictures of me growing up.  She did that just in case my birth mom ever stopped by the office.

She didn't.

She probably didn't because she had kept my birth a secret.  At least, she kept most of it a secret.  She was married to my biological father and told him that I had died at birth when she delivered me.  He was working abroad, so this was possible.  And she did that for her own self preservation, which I do not begrudge.  

She and my birth father already had two toddler daughters.  And they were hoping for a son - it's Korean culture that sons bring more honor.  She was at her wit's end and when my father's oldest brother told her that she basically needed to have a son, it scared her.  She was practically living as a single parent with my birth father working at sea.  So, she did what she had to do.  And then, when my father returned, she immediately got pregnant with my youngest sister.

The worst was that when I arrived in Korea, she had to decide if she wanted to meet me.  And since the answer was YES, she had to tell my birth father.  Then, together, they told their daughters...my sisters.

Michelle in Korea 1998

Since our initial meeting, I have gone back to Korea 3 more times.  I volunteered for two of those trips and I took my husband back for a traditional Korean wedding in 2009.

 Michelle HJ wedding 2009

My birth mother has also traveled to the US to meet her sister, who lived in San Francisco before dying in 2012.  The silver lining with that trip - she met my mom, Sharon.

Well, now there's a new chapter we're about to write.  My sister Hyun Jeong is moving to Wisconsin.  Her (white, American) husband grew up in Wisconsin and after several years of owning and operating a language institute in Asia, they're coming home.  Her husband grew up closer to Minneapolis, but they feel like Madison will be a better fit for them.

I can't tell you how much my heart swells.  I'm so happy to be near both of them, but I'm just grateful that this is happening.  Adoption can be a weary journey with high highs and low lows, but I can see nothing negative with this new chapter.

Meet Hyun Jeong

I'll keep you posted, but I really buried the lead here.  My sister arrives in Wisconsin TODAY.  She'll spend two weeks near Minneapolis with her inlaws before making the trek to Madison.  So, let the fun begin!  I'll try to share some of our adventures here and on my personal blog.  I also think she could be a tremendous resource for adoptive families because people rarely hear from the biological siblings point of view.  She is so talented, smart, beautiful and really well-spoken.  I think she and her husband will be a great asset to the Madison community.  And I hope they love it here.

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