U.S. Olympic freestyle skier Toby Dawson embraced his tearful father yesterday as they reunited for the first time since the athlete was lost in a South Korean market more than two decades ago, leading to his eventual adoption in the United States.
"Don't worry," Dawson, 28, told Kim Jae Su as the two met at a Seoul hotel, the culmination of a years-long journey made possible after Dawson won a bronze medal in freestyle skiing at the Turin Olympics, earning wide attention in the country of his birth.
Dozens of would-be parents came forward to claim Dawson was their child, including Kim. Dawson put off traveling to Korea to await confirmation from genetic tests.
Dawson was 3 years old when he was lost at a market by his mother in the southern port city of Busan, Kim said. Kim said it was too late when he got home to start searching for his missing child, whose name was Bong Seok. Over the next few days, he said he scoured local orphanages but was unable to find his son.
"I went to many orphanage houses only to hear that they didn't have anyone like him. They wouldn't let me come inside and look for him," said Kim, 53.
"I'm not here to beat him up for what happened," Dawson said, adding that he had a fortunate life growing up with his adoptive parents, who were ski instructors in Vail, Colo.
At the start of a news conference, Dawson gave his father a Norwegian skiing sweater that he said signified his upbringing in the sport, which Kim immediately put on.
Kim declined to talk publicly about Dawson's biological mother.
Also at the reunion was Dawson's biological younger brother, 24-year-old Kim Hyun Cheol, who was wearing an earring in his left ear similar to those Dawson has in both ears. All three men wrapped their arms around each other before heading out for a family lunch.
-- From News Services