Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Unending Strength of a Mother's Love

By Stephanie White

The best part of being a mother was watching my son grow, not just physically, but emotionally and cognitively as well. Whenever I saw one of my 'life lessons' in action as he developed compassion, Independence and a strong sense of justice, my heart burst with pride.

My son and I were very close, often accompanying me wherever I went. That's not always easy because children are very observant and if I needed correcting on a life lesson, he would remind me of my words, so in a way, we complimented each other on striving for impeccability.

As a single mother living and working in another country, it wasn't always easy, yet because a solid foundation had be laid in Mike's early childhood, he had the maturity to thrive in any environment and utilize opportunities for flexible specialization in his own development. He had taken a Korean language course at Chungbuk University at 14 and had just begun learning Chinese before Mother's Day Eve 2008 when his life was snatched from him at an upscale family style sauna.
In South Korea, it was the big Buddha holiday and the sauna was very crowded with patrons enjoying family bathing bonding activities before the main events at temple the next day, which for Americans' was Mother's Day.

One of the hardest things I ever had to do as a mother was to watch my son die in ER as police worked to cover up this crime. A ludicrous autopsy report was fabricated and disseminated to the public, to ensure that no one would connect the unexplained death of my son to the ongoing Anti-USA Beef Riots which were in their height.
The first autopsy report implied that my son suffered from Reyes Syndrome, a chronic liver disease as well as arteriosclerosis. According to the police and Busan Medical, my son was at death's door anyway.

This shocked our friends and family as we all knew Mike to be in perfect health with no history of a congenital liver disease nor mental impairment from Reye's Syndrome. It took nearly 3 months and several thousand dollars (US$) to seek a second autopsy review to refute the 'findings' of the first report.

August 19, 2008 a forensic expert from Seoul National University accepted the task to review the medical findings yet he refused to examine any criminal forensic evidence for fear of reprisals.

It took 6 months in civil court to prove to the court an "event" happened. It took 8 months in civil court for the police report to be released. Nearly 11 months after my son's death, the tribunal of civil court Judges did a 'spot' investigation of the sauna due to discrepancies between the police report and sauna employee statements as to where and what manner my son was found. Within a week, the police photos were released.

The photos that were taken less than 3 hours after the 'event' show bruises beginning to surface. The courts have yet to release the examiner's notes, slides or photographs from the first autopsy. No drugs or alcohol were found in my son's system.

When I look back over the past year, I sometimes wonder how I've managed to get this far in my fight for justice for my son's murder. The answer is my own mother's example of strength in love.

My own mother was a force of nature who's unstoppable will enabled her to accomplish any goal she set her mind on. She was always able to adjust for things not within her control while overall keeping on course. When it came to someone that mattered most to her, her love was unbreakable.

Those early lessons of determination along with my unending love for my son have given me the strength I need to cut through mountains of red tape, cross centuries old cultural barriers fighting for justice for my son's murder while bringing awareness to conditions in South Korea of those foreign nationals who are victims of crime. All while my own embassy and department of state write condolence letters and repeat there is nothing they can do.

Something few people know about me, yet thankfully my son did, since I was a pre-teen myself, I prayed for a son who would look and act just like me and would travel the world with me on grand adventures...a dream which came true on our trips to Japan, Thailand and China, only to be snatched away on Mother's Day.

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