By Jae-Ha Kim
November 20, 2011
A couple years ago, actress Katherine Heigl and her husband, Josh Kelley, adopted an adorable little baby girl from South Korea. No one would deny that they didn’t deserve to be parents. But what some folks—myself included—found curious was that they had been married for less than two years when they were matched with their child.
What’s that you say? Who cares? Well, Korea cares, actually. One of the requirements for foreigners to adopt Korean children is that they have to be heterosexuals who have been married for at last three years.
I know this for a fact, because when my husband and I had started our adoption process—with the same agency that Heigl used—we were told that we would not be able to adopt from Korea because (1) we hadn’t been married long enough and (2) by the time we had been married long enough, we’d be too old to adopt from Korea.
OK, not we. Me. I’d be too old. That agency’s cutoff age was 43. (Damn. Now ya’ll know I’m older than 43.)
I pointed out to the agency that I was born in Korea, spoke the language and would be able to raise the child with a sense of his or her birth culture. So perhaps Korea might make an exception. She told me, “None of that matters. You won’t be able to adopt.”
Thank goodness we didn’t give up. With a minimal amount of research, I found out that this woman wasn’t telling the complete truth. Whether it was because she didn’t know any better or just didn’t care enough is debatable. But we learned that Korea offered a little more leeway for adoptive parents of Korean heritage.
By the time we had fulfilled the 3-year marriage requirement, we got cracking. After all, we weren’t getting any younger. Especially me. Through a work contact’s cousin, who was married to a reporter who was working in Seoul at the time, who had just covered a press conference about adoption, I found Steve Morrison. Morrison is this awesome adoptee who founded Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea (MPAK). He put me in touch with another adoption agency. This agency ultimately worked with us so that we could adopt the cutest, smartest and most awesome baby boy in the world. And yes, that, too, is a fact. (It really is.)
This is a long-winded way of backing into a peeve of mine. I find it really irritating when you are accused of being unsupportive if you happen to disagree with someone else’s opinion. On a public adoption bulletin board, I–along with some other adoptive parents—wondered how Heigl and her husband had been able to circumvent the marriage requirement. Not that I fault them for jumping at the opportunity to bring home their child sooner rather than later. But why were they given special treatment?
Several of us mused that perhaps, maybe just perhaps, Heigl’s celebrity status had something to do with getting to jump to the front of the line. Yes, the child had a health issue (that has been rectified). But the same could be said for the child we would’ve adopted through that agency. Heigl also has a sister, who was adopted from Korea, so maybe that gave her an advantage. Who really knows?
But I found it surprising that there were quite a few posters who took our questioning the system to mean that we hated Heigl and were just downright bitter. One woman (though I suppose it could’ve been a man) posted: “Unless you know her it’s lame to say she has special treatment.”
Oh, I’m sorry. Because we all know that celebrities never receive special treatment. Ever.
Another said she was new to the forum and was disappointed at how mean some people were. To tell you the truth, that just made me want to kick her while wearing my pointiest shoes.
I could make some snarky assumptions as to why Heigl might receive special treatment. But the end result is that an orphan found loving parents in Heigl and her hubby. And for that I’m grateful.
I’m even more grateful that things worked out the way they did for us. Because if that first agency hadn’t given us erroneous information that delayed our process, we would have been matched with a different child.
I don’t believe that things happen for a reason. Or that things were meant to be. I don’t believe much in fate, either.
But I can’t imagine life without my beautiful son. I’m sure that’s a sentiment that Heigl and I share about our children.
For what it’s worth, I had wanted to get Heigl’s take for this piece, but her publicist declined the interview request. Fair enough. She’s a busy lady.
And because I tend to get angry emails when I write articles that aren’t 100% glowing about celebrities, let me just say: Yes, I’m fully aware that Heigl is prettier, younger, thinner and infinitely wealthier than me. But… My husband is smoking hot and I think that’s a pretty fair equalizer in the grand scheme of things.
Copyright © 2011 Jae-Ha Kim
* Per requests, I have added some of the reader comments from the Trib’s site, exactly as they appeared at chicagotribune.com.