Nun Helps Adoptees Find Roots

By Kim Hyo-jin (

Kim Kil-ja, a nun who belongs to the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, has been a bridge between Korean adoptees and their motherland over the past two decades.

Kim Kil-ja

Every year since 1995, the 63-year-old nun has provided consultation for around 100 overseas adoptees with hopes of finding their roots. She has involved herself in helping them search for their biological parents and has successfully arranged 12 reunions between adoptees and their birth families so far.

“They’ve got nobody here. Our support in helping them search for their birth parents is as important as the reunions themselves,” Kim said in an interview with The Korea Times. “I want them to feel welcome and see that their motherland is on their side.”

The Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres in the diocese of Daegu ran an orphanage called White Lily Orphanage from 1915 to 1994. Most of the children who went there were sent to overseas countries as adoptees.

Many came back to visit the place after growing up, feeling a sense of connection to their home land. As their numbers grew, the Sisters needed someone who could guide them. And Kim, a onetime high school English teacher who was teaching fellow nuns the language, came to take the role.

She naturally became passionate in tracing their roots after meeting many desperate adoptees. Kim tracked down related information, running back and forth between the police and the neighborhoods where they were born. She starts doing the job as soon as an overseas adoptee contacts her considering they have little time to spend here.

“It’s just not right if we’ve got no birth information to show them. I had to try my best to gather clues leading up to their reunions with their families as much as possible,” Kim said.

Kim has preserved birth cards and documents of 12,400 adoptees left at the diocese and handed over the copies to the Korea Adoption Services last year in the hopes of expediting adoptees’ efforts in searching for their birth parents.

Recognized for her dedication in helping overseas adoptees, Kim received the Order of Civil Merit, Saturday, during the commemoration ceremony on the 11th Adoptees’ Day.

“Finding one’s identity is a never-ending job. Even adoptees over 60 years old come back to Korea to learn and find out about their backgrounds,” she said.

“Helping them is a long-term mission. It will continue as long as this organization exists.”

Reproduced with permission of author, Hyojin Kim. Originally published at