중앙데일리

Outreach work helps adoptee rediscover roots

Aug 20,2008
Mo In-ae [JoongAng Ilbo]
Mo In-ae, 31, has three moms - a biological mother, an adoptive mother and a stepmother.

She also has a second name: She was christened Kara Carlisle when she was adopted by an American couple five months after her birth in 1978.

This unique background is perhaps why she’s the youngest, and the only Asian-American, of the 11 members of the Human Relations Commission in Los Angeles.

She graduated from college in 2003 with financial support from her adoptive parents. Since then, she has been working on issues related to Korea and Koreans.

Her first job was helping families, planning children’s programs and doing environmental volunteer work at the Youth and Community Center in LA’s Koreatown.

At the Korean-American Coalition, her second workplace, Mo helped settle disputes between Koreans and non-Koreans.

And since 2007 at the Human Relations Commission, Mo has been working on generating strategies to deal with race and immigration problems.

Despite her thoroughly Asian looks, until recently Mo considered herself a true-blue American.

“My parents were very interested in adoption,” Mo said.

“I grew up with white siblings, two black siblings and another Korean sibling.”

Growing up amid such diversity, she has never considered differences in appearance a problem.

“And I’ve always been very outgoing, so I was never left out in school because of my Asian face,” Mo said.

It wasn’t until 2003, when she started working on Korean issues, that she started to think about her Korean roots.

Initially, she didn’t think she looked or felt Korean at all.

But as time went by, she began to feel something else - an invisible emotional bond.

When she became the youngest member of the Human Rights Commission, the Korean community in LA was sincerely happy for her.

In gratitude, Mo began using “In-ae” as her middle name, reflecting her background and expressing her closeness to Koreans.

“When Koreans first hear my name, they think I’m just another American but when I tell them my Korean name - In-ae - they feel more intimate,” Mo said.

Mo met her biological father eight years ago.

“There was hardly any information on my father at the orphanage,” Mo said.

But thanks to her unusual last name - Mo - she met her father and his new family, adding a stepmother to her two moms.

She still hasn’t found her biological mother, whose last name, Choi, is very common in Korea.

Mo has been back to Korea five times, most recently to attend the 11th Future Leaders Conference 2008.

Ethnic Koreans from across the globe are invited to participate in the annual conference in Seoul.

“It is an honor to be one of the future leaders,” Mo told JoongAng Ilbo.

“Youths around the world should never fear change and create new challenges step by step in order to develop and enlarge the world.”


By Kim Yoon-mi JoongAng Ilbo [estyle@joongang.co.kr]


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