Kim Muir is forever changed by her return to South Korea
Kim Muir either had tears in her eyes or was fighting them back the entire time.
Muir, 45, owner and president of the Can’t Skate, Can’t Play Inc., power skating school, was visiting the Greenmeadow Orphanage in Seoul, South Korea, during the winter Olympics late last month. Greenmeadow was her home from the time she was six months old – when she was discovered abandoned next to a garbage can – until she was adopted by Lois and Al Muir of Trenton when she was 4.
Muir journeyed to the nation of her birth along with her two children to not only revisit her past but also to attend the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
She was emotional at the orphanage because she realized she could easily have been one of the children never got adopted.
“Thanks to (the Muirs) and this country, I have people who love me,” said Muir in a recent phone interview after she returned. “I could have been in (the orphanage) with nobody loving me. I could have been a nobody.”
Muir said there were mostly girls in the orphanage because girls aren’t as valued as boys in South Korea.
If girls aren’t adopted by the time they are 16, many become “like streetwalkers, who are trying to grab onto any man they can get, like maybe a U.S. soldier. It’s really, really sad.
“That could have been me.”
The orphanage also was home to children with disabilities or deformities who were sent away by their parents.
Muir said she was deeply touched by two girls she encountered during her visit to Greenmeadow.
One was a 12-year-old girl with a facial deformity who fortunately was in the process of being adopted by a Baptist minister and family from Michigan. The other was an 11-year-old girl who followed Muir around as she toured the orphanage and wanted to go with her when she left.
“I almost felt obligated to take her home,” Muir said. “If I wasn’t already a single parent with two children, I probably would have.”
The visit was also important for her to show her two children – an 11-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter – how fortunate they are to be growing up in the United States.
“I know my kids are young, but for them to see what a privileged life they have had living in this country” made an impact, Muir said.
She added that life at the orphanage is much like it was for her more than 40 years ago.
“It’s still the survival of the fittest,” she said. “There’s competition for everything: food, clothes … Kids still mostly don’t have their own clothes and shoes. They have to share, and everything is donated.”
In the days before she visited Greenmeadow, while watching Olympic events, Muir experienced emotions that were different but just as intense.
She saw the U.S. Women’s hockey team win gold – its first in 20 years – by beating arch-rival Canada 3-2 in a shootout. She also took in the Women’s figure skating and the Men’s hockey final, in which the Olympic Athletes from Russia defeated a surprising German team 4-3 in overtime to win Russia’s first Olympic hockey gold medal since 1992.
She got to see some of the players who had been her power-skating students – U.S. Women’s defenseman Megan Keller (Farmington Hills), U.S. Men’s defenseman and former NHL player James Wisniewski (Canton), U.S. Men’s defenseman and former NHLer Bobby Sanguinnetti, Canadian Men’s defenseman and former NHLer Marc-Andre Gragnani, and Czech Republic defenseman Michal Jordan, who played with the Plymouth Whalers in the Ontario Hockey League and the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes.
“When you are able to see the skills you taught being used in such high level competition …,” Muir said.
She was also bowled over by just watching athletic competition at the top international level and the emotions of the athletes when they won. She particularly enjoyed watching former Red Wing Pavel Datsyuk, who was the captain of the Russian squad.
“It was beautiful to watch Pavel Datsyuk again,” Muir said. “He wasn’t the best player on the ice, but he was the best player on the ice, if you know what I mean. He maybe didn’t score the goals, but he was setting them all up.”
Datsyuk – who at 39 years, 220 days old became the oldest player to ever win an Olympic hockey gold medal – told reporters after the game that winning an Olympic gold medal for his country meant more to him than winning two Stanley Cups with Detroit.
“And after the game, seeing him so emotional … That’s what you wanted to see,” she said. “… And how so many of the German players wanted to get their picture taken with him.”
She said it was also unbelievable to watch hockey, the sport she loves so much, being played on the Olympic stage.
Muir said her only disappointment was that the Canadian Men, who won a disappointing bronze medal, did not show up for the medal ceremony.
Muir also became something of an international celebrity as print, broadcast and on-line media from all over the world – including the New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, South Korean media and the Japanese Times – did stories on her that told about her unique trip.
“The press was amazing. I didn’t realize how popular I would be,” Muir said.
The trip was, she added, “a life-changing experience.”