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Mia Miller

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Mia Miller was born in South, South Korea in 1960. She was adopted by an American family in Minnesota at the age of 10. Mia reconnected with her birth mother at the age of 17 in Burlington, New Jersey. Since coming to the United States, Mia has done 6 ? years of missionary work in Thailand and China. She currently owns her own custom design business and works at a candle warehouse.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. Please contact Immigration History Research Center staff for permissions not covered by this Creative Commons license.

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Mia Miller Transcription

“My Mother’s Journey to America: the Story of a South Korean Adoptee”

In the year of 1970, at the age of 10, my mother was faced with two fates: the fate of being forced into prostitution at a young age; the other, being given up by her mother and placed into the adoption system. Both fates were ones that no 10 year old could ever comprehend. At the time, my mother’s mother was working as a prostitute in South Korea to earn money to keep her family alive, sometimes having to feed her children red clay just to keep their stomachs from aching from emptiness. This was a life that she would never want for her children. This resulted in her hard decision to give up two of her children, my mom and her younger brother Young Dogy. Right after my mother’s adoption was finalized, her mother tried to pull both her and her brother out, but it was too late to save my mother, and she was put on a plane to the Minneapolis airport.
[voice recording] “walking out of the plane all I saw was flashing lights going off everywhere, and I got so scared that I had ran back into the plane and hid. So the airplane service people had to get me and walked me back out to where my new family was waiting for me”
Coming to America, my mother didn’t know any English. The only words that she knew were hello, goodbye, and thank you. She didn’t understand what her new family was telling her or what American customs were. All she understood was that her mother had given her up and didn’t want her anymore. She cried herself to sleep every night. A couple weeks after arriving in America, she was immediately put into a public grade school knowing no English. She had just a little Korean to English dictionary that she used to communicate with the teachers who used an English to Korean dictionary to communicate back. After school was done at 3, she got home around 3:30 and the tutor arrived at 4 to practice English with a phonetic machine every day. After tutoring, she would always see her American mom cleaning the house or doing laundry and thought that she needed to do those things too. She didn’t understand that the mother does all of that in America. So, she would try to wash all her clothes in the bath tub by hand, and when her American mom tried to tell her she didn’t have to do that, she thought she was being mean and would run to her room and cry until she understood that there is a machine downstairs that did that. Food was also a hard adjustment for her with the high sugar and salt content and lack in spiciness, something that was common in her diet in Korea when her mom was able to purchase real food. However, the biggest adjustment was learning American customs and coping with her mother giving her up. Once she got to junior high, the adjustments that she was going through became easier. But scars from the past remain.
[voice recording] “The one thing I took away from this is money doesn’t grow on trees and you have to work your ass off and be honest to get where you want in life. And that’s what I pass onto you and your brother.”