Statue to remember murdered Korean adoptee in US

Thomas Park Clement holds the hand of a statue that depicts a little boy letting go of a butterfly. The statue, “Hyunsu’s Butterfly,” is named after Hyunsu O’Callaghan, a Korean American adoptee murdered by his adoptive father just four months after being adopted. / Courtesy of Chosun Ilbo

Company CEO and Korean American adoptee dedicated matching statues to schools in Korea and the United States in memory of Hyunsu, a Korean boy murdered by his adoptive father. Thomas Park Clement, once an orphan from the Korean War, built the statues with the cooperation of Hyunsu’s Legacy of Hope, an association formed to commemorate his passing, in dedication of all Korean adoptees and abused children whose lives were taken by murder, illness, and suicide.

The bronze statue, titled “Hyunsu’s Butteryfly,” depicts a boy letting go of a butterfly with wings spread out ― the boy represents Hyunsu as a little boy prior to his death, while the butterfly symbolizes Hyunsu after his death.

“He metamorphosed, grew wings as an angel and flew into the heavens,” explained Clement in an interview with the Korea Times.

“We did not want Hyunsu to be forgotten, swept away in the never ending flood of bad news,” said Clement. He stressed this message was not just coming from himself, but “We,” of the greater global Korean adoptee community.

Born with developmental disabilities in Korea in 2010, Hyunsu O’Callaghan was beaten to death in 2014 by his American adoptive father, Brian O’Callaghan, just four months after being adopted.

An association, named Hyunsu’s Legacy of Hope, was formed in response to his tragic death. Two representatives, Nancy Cho-Auvil and Nani Yi, had asked Clement to build a bronze statue for his grave site. “Hyunsu’s Butterfly,” Clement’s first statue, took nine months of laborious work and the help of his wife, Kim Won-sook, a professional sculptor and of a Korean descent.

Clement said that the matching statues were originally intended for Hyunsu’s grave site in the U.S. and somewhere in Seoul, the place of his origin.

After unsuccessful attempts to place the statue in Hyunsu’s grave site, Linwood Center in Maryland and Daniel School in Southern Seoul, both institutions serving special needs children like Hyunsu, agreed to have the statue erected.

Unlike Hyunsu, Clement’s life has been hailed as a successful adoption story. Born of a Korean mother and American G.I. during the Korean War, Clement had gone through many of the troubles other adoptees forced at the time, shunned as an outcast for being a bi-racial adoptee.

But Clement, who was adopted into a loving and supportive family in the U.S., grew to become a successful businessman: owner of medical device company with over two dozen patents. He has also been an active voice of the Korean adoptee community ― beginning with his autobiography, “Dust of the Streets: The Journey of a Biracial Orphan of the Korean War,” he also began counseling and sponsoring many adoptees struggling to find their birth parents or connect to their roots.

Clement believes that for him, adoption gave him a better life as Korea was poor and torn by the war at the time, with extreme prejudice against biracial children and orphans.

But now, he believes Korea should no longer adopt their children overseas ― an “outdated” system he called.

He also noted that many adult Korean adoptees feel that Korea continues to export for monetary gain.

“If you take around $40,000 per child and multiply it by quarter of a million orphans who have been exported, you have a 10 billion-dollar-industry (taking inflation into account).”

“It’s sort of like a bad habit very difficult to quit,” he added.

Clement said for Korea that faces a dramatic decline in birthrate, “exporting” children goes counter to solving the problem, which is expected to damage the national economy in the near future.

Korean companies could be a key in solving such problems by taking more responsibility to help single birth mothers.

“Just think, if the huge companies in Korea such as Kia, Hyundai, LG, Samsung amongst just a few donated one percent to single birthmothers, the single birthmothers would actually be wealthy and able to keep their children,” he said.

For his fellow Korean adoptees, he recommended them to socialize, organize, and lobby for change. Utilizing social media would be beneficial, as well as reaching out to Korean adoptee organizations, available in almost every state and adopting countries.

“I hate the fact that such a horrible unacceptable death has ended Hyunsu’s life,” he said.

“Now, the challenge is how do we take this negative event and make a positive outcome so that Hyunsu did not die in vain.”

Reproduced in entirety, full credit: The Korea Times