Trip abroad gives local look at heritage
- Trip abroad gives local look at heritage
By BILL RETTEW JR., brettew@...08/25/2005
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PHOENIXVILLE - Seventeen-year-old Ben Parris recently returned from his
first trip to South Korea, where he sought, following his adoption as an
infant, to learn more about what his life might have been.
He left an orphanage in Seoul at three months old and became a Parris of
The Phoenixville High School senior traveled with his father Steve for
almost a month this summer, and discovered that in South Korea, city
life is similar in some ways to that of Phoenixville.
"Although we didn't go all over the place, the places that we did see
were Americanized," said Parris. "There were many markets with a lot of
American stores. "
The Korean-born teen said that Adidas, Nike, KFC, McDonalds and American
clothes, including super hero and cartoon shirts, were common in Seoul.
Due to a lack of space and overcrowding, he said that the sidewalks were
crowded with parked cars.
"Those cars were so close that if we did it here, we'd have so many
crashes," said Parris.
One cultural aspect of what might have been a life spent in South Korea
would have made a major difference to the naturalized American citizen.
"Here you get more opportunities with education," said Parris. "And so
much more interest in what I like to do - play guitar and listen to
Christian and Rock music. Plus I've got a great family that provides for
Parris is college bound and said that as the likely son of an unmarried
birth mother, he would have not been allowed to pursue an education.
The world traveler's senior class project is already in the can; Parris
documented the trip on video and hopes that during this school year, his
work will be shown on Phantom TV.
As part of that filming, Parris had the chance to meet and have lunch
with Dr. Duck Wang Kim, a visionary in his 90s, who recognized the need
to establish, and then spearheaded, the establishment of the Seoul
Kim asked whether Parris drank alcohol, smoked cigarettes or took
When he got a "no" answer, the doctor then asked one of his many success
stories to recount the fifth commandment.
Parris was quick to answer, "Honor thy Mother and Father."
Mother Mary Paris is a member of the Phoenixville Area School District
Board of Directors and described what her son's life would have likely
been like if he had stayed in Korea.
"He wouldn't have had many choices," said Mary Parris, who is about to
celebrate her 25th wedding anniversary. "He was given a great
opportunity at life that we all have because we were born here."
Ben Parris said that he hopes to meet his birth mother some day, but
that most similar requests are only successful a third of the time.
If a birth mother has married or remarried, and her husband has not been
notified of the adoption, Korean custom forbids releasing her name to
Ben Parris said that a worker with a local adoption agency would seek to
discover the identity of his birth mother starting in March after she
completes other ongoing and upcoming searches.
Ben shares a home with his family which includes 8-year-old Nicholas,
10-year-old Brianna and the Parris' parents only biological child,
He has already started visiting colleges, along with his girlfriend Dana
Metz, and expects to maybe attend either Kutztown University or York
The Parris family were members of support groups for adopting families
when Ben Parris was young, but those contacts had mostly faded away
Ben Parris was the center of attention as he told the other adoptees and
their families about his visit to the orphanage, his travels in Korea,
China and the Philippines and his meeting with Dr. Kim. The group
gathered at the Parris home where they watched the documentary of Ben
Mother and son both smiled when asked whether it needed to be explained
that he had been adopted. Ben Parris said that he had no trouble
assimilating into normal family life following adoption.
"Oh, we didn't tell him that he was adopted," said Mary Parris. "There's
no way you can hide that."
©The Phoenix 2005