See photos and read highlights from Holt’s 2023 heritage tour of Korea.
Over the summer, Holt led our first heritage tour of Korea since the pandemic! The tour included 37 participants, including 18 adoptees ranging in age from 9 to 70, along with their adoptive parents, siblings, spouses and/or friends.
“It was truly an amazing group to have for our first time back in four years,” says Paul Kim, Holt’s director of programs in Korea and Mongolia. Paul led the tour group on their journey across Korea, as he has many times before as the leader of Holt’s Korea program.
“Since 1975, when Holt listened to the needs expressed by adoptees and conducted the very first tour for international adoptees to the country of their birth, we have understood that this is a journey that encompasses much more than simply sightseeing. Reconnecting with their cultural heritage, and most importantly their birth history, is of critical importance to adoptees, and from the very beginning we have strived to provide answers and facilitate meetings whenever possible.”Paul Kim, Korea and Mongolia Program Director
The participants traveled from Seoul to Jeju Island, Busan, Gyeongju, Daejeon, and then back to Seoul, visiting national and historic sites and learning about Korea’s rich cultural heritage. This tour included visits to the Korean Folk Village, the DMZ, lava caves and Sunrise Peak in Jeju, historic temples in Gyeongju, and large open-air markets. By traveling with Holt, the participants also had the unique opportunity to visit some of Holt’s longstanding programs for vulnerable children and families, including the Ilsan Center for children and adults with special needs, a children’s care center founded by Harry and Bertha Holt in the early 1960s. The participants also visited a Holt-supported shelter program that empowers single mothers to parent their children.
Adoptees were able to visit the Holt office in Seoul, where they had the opportunity to review their adoption files, and ask questions about their birth history.
“Since 1975, when Holt listened to the needs expressed by adoptees and conducted the very first tour for international adoptees to the country of their birth, we have understood that this is a journey that encompasses much more than simply sightseeing,” Paul explains. “Reconnecting with their cultural heritage, and most importantly their birth history, is of critical importance to adoptees, and from the very beginning we have strived to provide answers and facilitate meetings whenever possible.”
Throughout the 53 years of our tours, adoptees have been able to visit their birth cities, former orphanages, birth hospitals, meet their foster families, and for some, meet members of their birth family.
“As one of the foremost international child welfare organizations,” Paul adds, “our dedicated post-adoption services team provides tour adoptees and their families with support and information — before, during and after the tour.”
Did you know Holt provides support to all adoptees?
Every adoptee has a unique and complex life experience. Holt strives to support all adoptees, regardless of their placing agency, by providing help with birth search, citizenship and more.
On the summer 2023 tour, four adoptees reconnected with the foster mothers who cared for them while they were waiting to join adoptive families. Two adoptees were able to meet their birth families. And although unable to meet them while in Korea, two adoptees were also able to make connections with their birth mothers.
For some of the adoptees, the tour was their first time traveling back to their birth country since they joined their adoptive families in the U.S. — including two adoptee siblings who are now in their 70s.
Some adoptees choose to travel back to their birth country independently. When they do, Holt can also help facilitate birth searches and visits to people and places of significance from their past. But, as Paul explains, traveling with Holt’s heritage tour group offers certain benefits.
“Some adoptees and adoptive families debate whether to join a tour for their time in Korea,” Paul says. “Many are already experienced travelers, and may have visited Asia in the past. However, this journey can be one of great emotion, wonder and growth. Traveling together with fellow adoptees and adoptive families — individuals who all understand adoption and are supportive of one another — is an amazing experience. Also, not having to figure out each morning where to eat, how to get from place to place, and not feeling alone in a new country, can be quite liberating and allow our tour members to fully immerse themselves in the journey, without worry about the ‘how?’”
Holt’s heritage tour is open to all Korean adoptees and adoptive families, whether or not their placing agency was Holt. Learn more about the tour and join us in 2024!
Photos From the 2023 Holt Heritage Tour of Korea
Learn more about opportunities to travel!
Join us on a vision trip (open to anyone interested in Holt’s work) or a heritage tour (for adoptees and adoptive families)!