August 05, 2004 20:14
“I want to say that I love you, but I can not. I wonder if I have a right to say that. I cannot say easily that l love you because I can guess the pains and sufferings that you had to go through. Even so, now I have to tell you that I love you!”
The remark made by the Health and Welfare Minister Kim Keun-tae at the Seoul Sofitel Ambassador Hotel on Thursday before 430 adoptees from 15 countries was not immediately delivered. When the voice of an English interpreter came out from the speakers, there were sounds here and there of swallowing tears.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the start of overseas adoptions, the Korean Adoptee Gathering 2004 started Wednesday in Seoul for its four-day run. This is the third meeting followed by its first one in Washington in 1999 and the second one in Oslo, Norway in 2001. Many important figures sent messages to congratulate or encourage the participants, but they also expressed how sorry they feel.
On behalf of First Lady Kwon Yang-sook, Lee Kwang-kyu, the president of the Overseas Koreans Foundation, said in a congratulatory address, “It hurts my heart to think about you having to leave for a totally strange land at an early age.” Welfare Minister Kim also started his address by saying, “The closer the time got to meet you, the more confused I felt in not knowing what to say. I was also afraid that you might not welcome me.”
The adoptees, however, warmly welcomed him. When the master of the ceremony introduced the participating groups and individuals, there was thunderous applause and cheers. All participants looked happy hugging each other as if they were attending a festival. Seeing cheerful young adoptees dressed gorgeously, a participant even said, “It is like I am attending a film festival in Hollywood.”
A French adoptee Pascal Salon (Korean name: Seo Jin-soo) said, “Whatever our homeland thinks about us, we love Korea.” A Dutch adoptee Don Roelofs (Korean name: Park Dong-sik) also said, “When I was young, Korea had nothing to do with me. But now everything has changed, and Korea means something to me.” He runs a travel agency in the Netherlands for Korean tourists.
(Kim Jeong-hoon, email@example.com)
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