"We simply didn't know what was going to happen," said John. Maybe Chad's biological father would turn out to be inept, or cruel or criminal. Maybe a short visit would change Chad's mind. "But we had to do something." On their second day in Korea, the director of Eastern met John and Anne Marie without Chad and did his best to dissuade them.
"The director said, 'Don't leave him here, there is money in the U.S.,' " John recalls with disgust. "I said, 'This is a child, not a commodity.' "
That afternoon, the agency finally produced Ki Joon Park, a small man with a weathered face carrying a crushed fedora. The Ostrowskis and Ki Joon Park sat staring at each other in an airless room, unable to communicate, while Eastern officials supplied spotty translation.
"They took advantage of us because we didn't know the language," said Anne Marie. Ki Joon Park seemed nervous and listened passively, with downcast eyes, as Eastern officials argued with him. But on one point Ki Joon was clear -- he wanted to sign the hastily drawn legal document the Ostrowskis had brought. With the stroke of a black pen, Ki Joon reclaimed his son.
The Ostrowskis and Ki Joon decided to leave Eastern and the hectoring officials and reconvene, with Chad, at a nearby restaurant. John, Anne Marie, and Chad were ushered into the private room upstairs. There they were greeted by the entire Park family -- Ki Joon, along with Chad's brother, sister, aunt, and niece. Ki Joon Park struggled to his feet. Chad's biological father, the "towering" figure in Chad's memory, stood a head shorter than his fully grown son. The resemblance between them was unmistakable. Park began sobbing, hugging Chad and hanging on his arm. Chad stood frozen.
"It was surreal," says Chad. "I was being pulled in two directions. Pulled apart."
From the look on Ki Joon Park's face, Anne Marie Ostrowski knew in a flash she would lose her son.
"I saw Chad was not reacting, and I realized that he was holding back for our sake," she recalls. "He looked at me, and I said, 'Chad, it's okay. It's your dad. You can have feelings for him. It won't hurt us. This is for you. You can love us both.' "
With many breaks for tears and translation, the boy's real story finally emerged. His mother died when Yong Seong Park was an infant. His father, destitute and mourning, left him, the youngest family member, with the boy's aunt, grandmother, and eventually a girlfriend, who mistreated Yong Seong. She eventually brought him to Eastern, which provides children to adoptive parents overseas. She convinced Ki Joon Park that the boy would be better off. Two days later, though, Ki Joon Park says, he changed his mind and tried to get his son back from the agency. Eastern apparently had no record of a little boy named Yong Seong Park, only Yong Seong Kang. Not realizing that his son's identity had been obliterated, Ki Joon Park continued to register him on the national rolls, hoping the boy would find his way back. Over and over, Ki Joon thanked the Ostrowskis and apologized for giving up a son he'd never stopped loving.
"We had terrible doubts about what we were doing," says John. "But seeing Chad and Ki Joon together erased our doubts. We saw the boy we hadn't seen in years."