Sunday, March 23, 2008

Korean Adoptee Returns in Triumph -- With Celine Dion 

Posted by Sasha at 12:32 PM ET


After finishing her first-day performance at the Olympic Gymnastics Gymnasium in Seoul on Tuesday evening, super diva Celine Dion brought the leader of her eight backup dancers, with whom she is traveling for her "Taking Chances World Tour 2008," center stage. It was an Asian woman. When her face appeared on the big monitor screens, she was all smiles and said hello to the audience.

Then she burst into tears. It was her first visit to Korea since she had been adopted by her American family 32 years ago. Her name is Addie Yungmee George. Some 8,000 audience members were visibly moved.

George was adopted by her American family at the age of two. She is now a top-notch dancer in the U.S., working as a backup dancer for superstars like Madonna, Leonnie Kravitz and Pink and accompanying them on their world tours. She also appeared in films including "Memories Of A Geisha" and "Collateral." Since November last year, she has been traveling with Celine Dion and her troupe on the diva's world tour.

"It was the best moment in my life. The world's best singer introduced me to the audience," George is crying again -- of joy as well as of sadness over her childhood. But she smiles finally when she says, "I'd never cried onstage before. Dancers cry only when they make a mess of a performance by tripping over or making a wrong move."

It was on Dec. 15, 1976 that she was adopted by an American family through Holt Children's Services. She was a little less than two. Her adoptive parents got divorced when she was about 10 years old, and she has since lived with her American father and two American older brothers. She displayed talent in dancing when she was very young. At the age of 13, she received a scholarship from a dancing school in Los Angeles, practicing ballet and soccer until she graduated from high school. She once dreamed of becoming a professional soccer player, but after leaving high school, she completely gave up soccer and began devoting herself to dancing. Until that time, nobody had told her about Korea.

"When I was 19, I made friends with a Japanese-American at the dancing school. Then I found out about Korea for the first time in my life. I ate kimchi for the first time, too,” she recalls.

"I was completely fascinated by its taste. That means I am undoubtedly a Korean by birth.” It was around that time she began thinking hard about her identity.

"I became curious about who I was and who my birth parents were. What does my birthplace look like? ... I grew more and more curious about such things every day."

George became a cheerleader for the professional basketball team LA Lakers. Her name became known in the industry when she was chosen as a backup dancer for singer Cher's world tour in 1998. In 2001, she became a backup dancer for Madonna. "I hoped at the time that Madonna would go to Korea. But she only went to Japan. I was very disappointed at the time." On Madonna's world tour in 2006, Addie Yungmee George danced for the singer again, but again Madonna did not make it to Korea.

George has no idea at all about her birth and her Korean family. She finally says, "I want to look for my mom." When she returns to the U.S. in April after winding up the current tour, she plans to ask her adoptive mother to show her adoption records. "If I find mom, I want to say, 'Thank you.' I don't know why she gave me up for adoption. Everything has a reason. Mom is part of me -- my flesh and blood."

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