What Happened to Chung Cho?

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What Happened to Chung Cho?

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Posted: 8/9/2011
Note: Names, Identifying informaiton and details may have been altered to protect personal identities.

In February of 2010, Jennifer contacted Search Quest America in search of her mother, who she had not seen in 26 years. Rumors had circulated throughout Jennifer's family for years, but Jennifer knew she hadn't been told the whole story. This story involves months and months of searching, horrifying discoveries, and ends with Jennifer's trip to Korea to find answers once and for all. This is her story.

2/23/10: I have not seen my mom since I was 4 year old, after my parents' divorce. She tried to contact me through my dad and grandparents who are all deceased now. They refused to allow contact between her and her children. I remember her as being very loving; she was a stay at home mom. I was told she was mentally ill, but I do not remember her being so. I am now 30, and I have been searching for her since I was 16. I have always had an empty feeling since she left, and I even had an eating disorder until I was 12. When she was taken out of my life, I felt abandoned.

I really did not have much of a relationship with my dad. When I was 19 he told me "Don't be surprised if she shows up on your door step one day," but that is all the information he gave me. It is so hard answering questions from my children about why I don't have a mom. I have 3 kids, my oldest daughter has lots of medical problems, some undiagnosed. I badly need our family health history so I can get her the care she needs. I also have hereditary health problems myself. My sister and I both need a mom in our lives. I want to find her before she passes away if she has not already.

Her name is Chung Sik Cho Davis. I was told she was born on February 2nd, but I don't know what year. My parents were married outside of Seoul, Korea, and I have the address in Korea where they lived at the time, and their first address when they moved to the States. My birth certificate from 1979 says she was 24 when I was born, but my Dad always said she lied about her age. She has a sister in the United States who also married a military man. I have her social security number, but there is a man in VA who is currently using it, which seems very suspicious to me. I am told she has an aunt and cousin in the States.

With this information, SQA opened a case in search of Chung Cho. Julie Jones was the investigator that worked hand in hand with Jennifer every step of the way. Julie helped Jennifer request additional documents that might reveal more information about her mother.

3/24/10: I sent off paperwork to get marriage and divorce documents from Virginia vital statistics. I talked to friend that we had lived with when I was very young, before my parents' divorce. She said my mom's sister and her husband lived in California, and that her husband promised my dad a good job there, so we moved. I think that was 1980 or 1981. We were there for no more than 2 years and moved back to my grandmother's house in Harrisonburg, Va.

While we were in California, I had an "accident" at home and spent a good bit of time in the San Bernardino Burn Center. Those records might be available, and might have information about my parents. My sister is having a lot of medical problems, she's going downhill fast and doctors have not been able to diagnose her yet. We really need to know medical records on my mom. If there are any other records you recommend I get, please advise and I will start the process. Thanks, Jennifer

Meanwhile, Julie searched for Chung's sister, who supposedly married a military man and moved to the United States. She discovered that they divorced several years ago, and the military man (Mitchell) remarried to a woman named June Jones, then died a few years later. Julie contacted June to ask her questions about Mitchell's ex-wife, Chung's cousin.

June provided her name, Sun Yong Cho. She remembered Mitchell talking about Chung and the girls. After the divorce, Sun was not allowed to have any contact with her daughter, Karen. This was an eerily similar story to what Jennifer remembers about her mother, Chung. June told Julie she didn't remember anything else, and had no idea where Sun was.

However, later, when Jennifer called her personally, June said that after Sun left Mitchell, she hooked up with Mitchell's brother, Dave Jones, and later she left him for a man named Bob Baugh and went to Texas. Julie was able to locate Bob Baugh and let him a message.

Bob and Sun called back. They confirmed that Sun's cousin, Chung, lived with her sporadically in Alabama. She had dated Dave Jones, but they said she broke up with him and married a man named Terry Anderson, also a military man, in Alabama. At first, they insisted she had gone back to Korea and they had lost contact. Then, after a lengthy conversation, she claimed Chung was happy and living in Alabama with her three kids, but she swore that Chung had never married Jennifer's father, and did not have any children besides the three that lived with her. Sun provided Chung Anderson's phone number.

Julie and Jennifer talked about the situation, and Jennifer opted to contact Chung and her husband personally. All of the information about Chung Anderson matched the information Jennifer had about her mother, but the woman denied Jennifer was her daughter.

4/5/10: I spoke with Chung's husband, but I couldn't really tell if they are telling the truth. Both times I spoke with him he has been very persistent that we had the wrong person. But if that is so, I am really surprised that they have taken as much time as they have to speak with both of us and return calls and emails.

A part of me feels as if they want to throw us on the wrong path, especially after speaking with Chung and her telling me that her maiden name was Cho. That conflicts with what Sun said. I am thinking about calling Chung back today and asking her if she would mind if I send her some photos since she has the same maiden name as my mom, maybe she would recognize someone. If she is my mom, I would think there would be a part of her that would be eager to see these photos.

I had really mixed feelings about her when speaking to her, especially when her 1st question was "Where are you now?" But then she insisted that she was not the one I was looking for. It really upsets me that I did not have a chance to stay in contact with her over the years. My sister and I had a very hard childhood, we pretty much raised ourselves and had to live with a house full of drunks spilling their drinks on our backpacks and school books, we were always getting kicked out of our beds at night so some unknown drunk could pass out in our bed. From kindergarten up, we got ourselves up, fixed our own breakfast and went to school, with no one home to send us. I feel if we had some kind of relationship with our mom, we might have gotten a little bit of parental guidance and a little bit of a childhood, but maybe not. If this Chung is my mom, why would she deny me?

I would like the chance to find my mom to let her know I am not upset with her for not being there and also tell her I'm sorry that she had to go through what she did. As an adult I can see how easily this can happen with a divorce, especially when you have no family to back you up. My sister is actually going through something similar now, hopefully she will not lose her kids. Please let me know if or when you get a hold of the man using her social, I would love to know how he got it.

I also spoke with my uncle over the weekend. For the 1st time, he was honest about my parents' situation, now that my dad is deceased. All of this I had figured out myself, but I have more assurance about my assumptions now. He said when he first met my mom, he really liked her she seemed like a great mom and wife, then my dad began to hang out with a really bad group of people, started partying, cheating, was abusive, etc. My mom became angrier as time when on.

My uncle said in his opinion she was not crazy like everyone has always told me, he said my dad just drove her to get very mean over time. He said that my family members lied in court for my dad. He said she never should have been placed in Western State hospital. He said that when they had her admitted they ended up keeping her for a while because they did not believe the things she told them about my dad. My uncle said she did not tell them anything that was a lie, the abuse just sounded extreme. The deal was with the divorce that the only way Western State Mental institution would release my mom is if my dad paid for her plane ticket back to Korea. My uncle gave him the money for the ticket and my dad took her to the airport either in Washington DC or Dulles Airport in Northern Va. No one really knows whether or not she actually boarded the plane.

He also reminded me my mom did send a huge box of toys for Christmas the 1st year after she left. Now I remember my dad would never tell me where the return address was from. If the box was as big as I remember, I don't think it came from Korea. I remember when I was in 1st grade, I overheard my dad and his girlfriend talking about my mom and then within days we moved. My uncle said he never could understand why my dad kept my sister and I from having a relationship our mom, he only guesses that he did not want us the hear the other side of the story, which I have always assumed also. He also said my mom tried to contact my grandmother on my sister's 18th birthday.

I emailed Sun's husband some pictures of my mom and wedding. He said she did not recognize anyone and it has to be the wrong person. So either we have the wrong person or they are lying. I would think that if my mom tried to call my sister on her 18th birthday, then she would not be completely against us contacting her. I will let you know if I find out anything else and will fax you the divorce papers when they arrives. Thanks, Jennifer

5/10/10: Hi Julie, I am going through all the information I have and everything seems to be purposely miss leading. Try searching another name please for my mom Jo Eun Jung. I was looking through my parents wedding photos and noticed one of them had something written in Korean on the back. I took it to a Korean friend of mine and he translated "Jo Eun Jung," which is a name. There's a chance this could be my mother's real name.

The wedding date on the photos says November 7, 1976. However, the divorce decree says they were married on October 13, 1976. Could my father have intentionally changed the date? Her age, date of birth, social security number, wedding date, and even her name does not match up. It's as if my dad did everything possible to keep me from finding her.

I sent an email to the Korean embassy in Washington DC. Hopefully they will get back with me, there is supposed to be a family history on file of all my mom's relatives when my parents were married. It's a law when you get married in Korea. Is there any way you can search passports? According to my family it was an agreement upon the divorce that my dad pay for my mom's plane ticket back to Korea. That would have been right after the divorce April of 1984. Thanks, Jennifer
5/11/10: I have made a horrifying discovery. I got to thinking about all of these inaccuracies, and wondering whether my dad did this on purpose. Then I got to wondering, what would he be trying to hide? It doesn't make sense that he would go through all of this just to keep me from finding her, so there must be something else.

Then, I went online and searched the National Missing and Unidentified Persons system. Julie, I found the reconstructed picture of the skull of a woman that was found in 1985 in Delaware. I don't know that my mom was ever in Delaware, but the body was only discovered two hours from the Dulles Airport, where my dad supposedly dropped my mom off. What if he killed her and dumped her body? The whole scenario is so horrible and I desperately hope I'm wrong, but all of the facts point to a cover-up and I know my dad could be violent when he got angry. I'm going to submit my DNA for the authorities to match with the deceased woman. It will take 9 months to get the results back, so we can't stop searching. Let's assume it's not her, for now.

I contacted an attorney to obtain a subpoena for my mom's medical records at Wester State Psych Hospital. I ordered my Dad's military records. I also requested my parents' marriage license from Korea. When I have it, I will apply for the marriage registry in Korea and see if I can get a family history record. Let me know if there's anything else I can do.

5/26/10: Hi Julie, I just received the old medical records from the attorney. I'm scanning and emailing them to you now. The records are from 7/2/1979 and they say my mom was 31 years old at that time. I also talked to an investigator about filing a missing person's report. He says he still isn't able to file the report because I need to go through the state police and he doesn't think they would accept it because I "should have filed it when I was 18." He did look into the SSN issue with mom and the guy using it and can't ascertain whether or not it's hers or his. I talked to the social worker who worked my case in 1979 and she's checking her records to see if she has any additional info about my mom.

Then, I went to the social security administration. They would not confirm anything about the SS#, but the lady told me that the number I've been using has the last 4 numbers switched. So we may want to widen our search. Thanks.

Meanwhile, Julie began researching the previous known addresses of Jennifer's parents. She spoke with old neighbors seeking additional clues to the case. She also searched the nation for other women named Chung Cho in a ten-year age range, and eliminated each one as Jennifer's mother.

6/10/10: This afternoon, I found the Craigslist page for Souel, Korea, and posted a message. You never know if someone will contact us. Here's what I wrote: Hi, I am looking for my mom who went back to Korea in 1984, I have not seen her since. Her name is Chung Sik Cho, date of birth 2/28/48. Her fathers name is Won Tu Cho, aka Cho Won Tu, my grandmothers name is Yang, Ae Cha. My grandparents registry address is #110 Munju-Ri, Dong-Myon, Yonki-Kum, Chung-Nam. If any one can, please help me find my mom. There are wedding photos attached and last photos of last seen attached. Wedding photo was taken in 1976, family photo in 1983.

7/14/10: Hi Julie, I wanted to let you know I was able to set up a missing persons report for my mom through the NamUs web site, its case #7700. With the official NamUs case , I was able to contact the Seoul Jungbu Police station and they agreed to help with the case. I'll contact you if I hear anything.
On September 14, 2010, after a 5-month search of the United States for Jennifer's mother, under both the names Chung Cho and Jo Eun Jung, the case was solved. Jennifer received the following email from the Seoul Jungbu Police Station stating that her mother had been located.

7/14/10: This mail is to inform you the results of our attempt to reach your blood-related family (your mother, Chungshik Cho). We found out that your mother has been a patient at a hospital just outside of Seoul. Unfortunately, her health is not so well; she has a hard time expressing herself. We reached your aunt (maternal), Dongsoon Lee, and your family has informed us their will to meet you. Your family resides in Anyang, a city just to the south of Seoul. We will provide your aunt's (Dongsoon Lee) cellular phone number. We would like to tell you that we will inform your family your contact information. We would like to wish you a good luck in meeting your family, and if you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

After the divorce was finalized and the plane ticket purchased, Jennifer's father picked Chung up from the mental hospital and drove her to the airport. Somewhere along the way, Chung was very badly beaten, probably by Jennifer's dad. Nevertheless, she boarded the plane and sometime during the long flight she suffered brain damage, probably from swelling or bleeding in the brain. When her family picked her up, they noticed her injuries and rushed her to the hospital, but it was too late to reverse the damage. Since 1984, she had been in a child-like state in a hospital outside of Seoul.

This was certainly am unexpected ending to Jennifer's search. Shortly after receiving the news, Jennifer and her sister purchased tickets to Korea. They visited their mother, who did not understand who they were. They met their maternal family for the first time and were politely received.

I am glad that we finally have the answers we have been looking for all these years. I know now that my mother never sent us a box of gifts from Korea, and she never called on my sister's 18th birthday. But I have also learned that she didn't abandon us, or forget about us, or replace us somehow. She was the victim of a violent crime, probably by our father, and her life has never been the same. In a way, it is a blessing that she doesn't remember what happened, or that she left us behind. Otherwise she would have a whole different kind of suffering, knowing that we were alive but always out of reach. I'm happy we were able to meet members of our family, but disappointed that we didn't make any strong emotional bonds. It's probably due to cultural and language barriers, or maybe when they look at us they see our American father, who sent their daughter home literally broken. At least when my kids ask me why I don't have a mom, they will know that their grandmother would have loved them. I know she loved me, and I know it wasn't her fault. This was a long and difficult journey, to say the least, but we have answers, and that's priceless.

Written by Mica Burton on Jennifer's behalf.

(Client ID# 270491)
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