중앙데일리

Searching for the holy grail amid the ruins of war

[Perspective]

Oct 29,2008
Misty Ann Edgecomb, right, and her husband Caleb Raynor.
With the won’s tailspin causing much expat distress these days, and with the “worst of the panic” clearly not over (despite what you may have read in my last column), I decided to stick to a good, old-fashioned inspirational story this week.

As such, it was very lucky that I happened to meet Misty Ann Edgecomb, a journalist from Maine in the United States. She came here in late September on a Fulbright grant to research just such a story - an account of what she says is the first international adoption of a Korean child by a single parent.

It begins when Edgecomb’s then 24-year-old grandfather-in-law, Paul Raynor, arrives in Seoul during the Korean War as a U.S. soldier.

“He felt so overwhelmed by what he was seeing in Seoul at that time, all the poverty and the suffering and the kids running around, and he couldn’t do anything about it,” she said.

Paul Raynor and Jimmy, just after they got back to the United States.
Raynor met a little boy called Jimmy, or Choi Kyung-hyun, a mixed-race child who was living with a local prostitute.

“The mother had been killed when the North Koreans came into the city. The woman was kind of using him as bait, to drum up business. ... It wasn’t exactly a mother type of situation,” said Edgecomb.

What follows is the saga of Raynor’s trials and tribulations in adopting Jimmy, who is now Edgecomb’s father-in-law. In putting together this story, there are several key pieces that Edgecomb and her husband, Caleb Raynor, hope to find while they are here.

“We very much need [Choi’s] birth certificate,” she said. “That’s the holy grail, and would give us the mother’s name. But it was ’53 and it was kind of chaotic, so who knows if it was filed away properly.”

She’s also looking for people who may have information on the case.

“There was a gentleman from the Salvation Army, Lieutenant Kim Chin-hong, who was a friend [of Grandpa Raynor’s], and helped him with translations and worked a lot with orphans in the city,” she said.

Anyone with information about the now-closed Seoul Sanitarium and Hospital Orphanage would also be hugely helpful, she said, and can get in touch with her at mistyedgecomb@yahoo.com.

For now, as they get used to life here, Edgecomb and her husband find themselves looking at the people they pass in the street to see if her husband has any Korean features. “We think he has Korean hair. It’s lighter, but the Korean barbers know how to deal with it. No one at home can.”

The inevitable thoughts of their connection to this place have also surfaced. “Any of these women in their 70s and 80s could be his grandmother. We heard that she died, but we don’t know. He may have family here that we don’t know about.”

And with the won what it is to the American dollar right now, it looks like the pair will have plenty of time to find out.


By Richard Scott-Ashe Deputy Editor [richard@joongang.co.kr]



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