Name: Kelsey Hedlund (이미라)
Adopted To: Mahtomedi, Minnesota
Current Residence: Saint Paul, Minnesota
My first trip back to South Korea was during the summer of 2019 through my adoption agency (Children’s Home Society & Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota). The Tiger Tour trip was for two weeks during the end of June through the beginning of July.
I wanted to go on the tour the summer after I graduated from college, but the timing wasn’t right. When the time came to sign up for the 2019 summer tour, my mom and I decided that it was a great time to go. My mom had always talked about going back to Korea with me one day and it was surreal that the time had come.
During my time in Korea, the activities that impacted me the most would be visiting the Ae Ran Won Home in Seoul and the Shin Ae Won Orphanage in Gwangju. The Ae Ron Won Home is a single mother’s home. We listened to two single mothers tell their stories about putting their children up for adoption and how it has affected them. Hearing the mother’s side of the adoption process was very powerful and emotional. At the Shin Ae Won Orphanage, the children were eagerly waiting for us to arrive and play with them. We played soccer and ate dinner with them. Even though there was a language barrier between us and the children, it didn’t stop us from having fun.
My first trip back to South Korea was a life-changing experience for both my mom and me. We both met wonderful people along the way. The trip helped me gain a better understanding of my heritage. It has inspired me to learn more about the Korean culture and what I can do to help my birth country.
Since the trip, I’ve started the birth search process. Hearing the single mothers tell their stories and how the adoption process affected them, inspired me to do whatever I can on my end to make an effort to connect with my birth parents. I’m volunteering for a non-profit Korean Adoptee organization called Adoptee Hub where I’m a part of their events committee and help run their social media.
One of the biggest challenges that I faced while in Korea was not knowing the Korean language. I felt like I was looked down upon for being Korean but not knowing the native language. This has given me motivation to start learning the language so that the next time I go back to Korea, I can communicate more effectively with the people there.
One of my long term goals is to live and work in Korea preferably in one of these industries: Media/Publication/Fashion/Marketing. My dream job would be working for Asian Boss or Krave Beauty within their Social Media/Marketing Department.
I also want to become more strongly connected to Ae Ran Won Home, the Shin Ae Won Orphanage, Eastern Social Welfare Society, and A Father’s Heart organization by volunteering or donating my time and resources.
I highly recommend visiting South Korea as a Korean adoptee because it puts you more in touch with your Korean heritage and fills that void that Korean adoptees have growing up in America.