Hines Ward reflects on South Korea journey

Born in Seoul to a South Korean mother and an African-American father, Hines Ward's childhood was filled with res...

Posted: Feb 6, 2018 2:17 PM
Updated: Feb 6, 2018 2:17 PM

Born in Seoul to a South Korean mother and an African-American father, Hines Ward's childhood was filled with resentment. He suffered endless bullying and struggled with a sense of isolation. And then, he was introduced to American football.

Sport saved Hines, and it opened up his eyes to a new reality -- a reality of the sacrifices his mom had made to give him a chance at a better life in the US. Ward won two Super Bowls in his NFL career, becoming a superstar in both the US and South Korea.

A decade ago, Ward arranged for a group of biracial children to visit him in the US. Ten years later, Ward and CNN journeyed to South Korea as he returned for a very special reunion.

Ward shares his personal reflections of one of those children he met, Michael, now an adult.

Michael was a kid who stood out.

That's because he wrote a letter talking about killing himself.

A kid talking about that? That's like a cry for help. So of course, I knew he had to come to the US. He had to be here.

When I first met all the kids when they stepped off the plane for the first time to the US, it was in Pittsburgh. Coming off the plane, you've got cameras all over you. So their heads were down. Very shy. Very timid.

I was kind of hoping to let them open up after the media got away, so I rented out Dave & Busters and just let the kids go crazy. But I made a point to really hang out with Michael and really play with him as much as I could, just to finally see him smile and feel normal.

I think the biggest thing that hit home for me in his letter was he didn't ask to come into this world as a biracial kid and feeling the way he felt and how he was being treated.

It felt like there wasn't anyone who could help him deal with those issues. It hit home to me. I lived it. I lived being teased and bullied and trying to find your identity.

Michael was the guy I kind of laid eyes on the majority of the time he was there in Pittsburgh, because I really wanted to see happiness in him.

I was nervous when I went back to South Korea with my mom and wife. It took me back to a place where it all started -- the way the country treated my mom, where she felt so bad that she basically had to risk everything in Korea and move to give me a better life.

It gave me a greater appreciation of what my mom had to endure, the sacrifices that she made for me and to understand more about my Korean heritage. That was something I was yearning for.

READ: How to yell 'sick half-pipe' in Korean

Acceptance

But I was excited at the same time. Excited to see the kids. Excited to see Michael. But nervous to sit there and wonder: Did I make a change in these kids' lives?

I haven't spoken to them in forever. I knew the trip to Pittsburgh was great for them. But I never knew where it was headed. Would that trip really help? Would we see change in the future?

To finally see Michael again, 10 years later, and to see how his whole personality, his whole attitude, perspective on life has changed, it was tears of joy, because I never knew where it all was headed.

To come full circle 10 years later, it's amazing to see them doing well and have all the confidence.

There is more acceptance now in South Korea for people of mixed race. Is it where we want it to be? No. But is it better than it once was 10 years ago? Yes.

And to be a part that, knowing that I helped the movement, I'm excited and honored just to be a part of those kids' lives and knowing that I helped impact change in their lives.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 117450

Reported Deaths: 3580
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion21403766
Lake10618323
Elkhart6667111
St. Joseph6576110
Allen6292203
Hamilton4909109
Vanderburgh371931
Hendricks2747123
Monroe262736
Tippecanoe252313
Johnson2338124
Clark223657
Porter217647
Delaware198562
Cass19549
Vigo184327
Madison168975
LaPorte147441
Floyd138963
Warrick134440
Howard131863
Kosciusko124817
Bartholomew117957
Marshall101224
Dubois99119
Boone98646
Grant93334
Hancock93243
Noble92532
Henry80926
Jackson7689
Wayne76814
Morgan72938
Daviess67728
Shelby67729
Dearborn66528
LaGrange63911
Clinton60914
Harrison58724
Putnam58112
Gibson5305
Knox5259
Lawrence51529
Montgomery51121
DeKalb48711
White48614
Decatur45839
Miami4383
Greene42735
Fayette42313
Jasper3992
Steuben3877
Scott38111
Posey3400
Sullivan33812
Jennings31612
Franklin31125
Ripley3038
Clay3025
Orange28824
Whitley2796
Carroll27713
Adams2743
Wabash2718
Washington2691
Starke2677
Wells2654
Spencer2593
Jefferson2483
Huntington2453
Fulton2412
Tipton22822
Perry22113
Randolph2207
Jay1880
Newton17311
Owen1711
Martin1680
Pike1621
Rush1574
Vermillion1300
Fountain1282
Blackford1203
Pulaski1131
Crawford1080
Brown1043
Parke1032
Benton870
Ohio797
Union790
Switzerland690
Warren401
Unassigned0226

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 150809

Reported Deaths: 4741
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin26961607
Cuyahoga17490656
Hamilton13191315
Montgomery7883163
Lucas7322364
Butler6040111
Summit5332252
Marion310347
Warren309649
Mahoning3073281
Stark2883175
Pickaway267844
Lorain231786
Delaware228120
Fairfield211853
Licking193663
Columbiana193280
Wood190272
Trumbull1896132
Clark181040
Clermont173123
Lake163851
Medina147539
Greene146533
Miami145451
Allen144169
Portage115566
Mercer113218
Erie94647
Tuscarawas93620
Wayne93668
Richland90319
Ross89024
Madison83012
Darke80442
Geauga72349
Belmont72227
Hancock71210
Athens7072
Ashtabula65948
Lawrence65922
Shelby64910
Auglaize6089
Putnam60823
Sandusky57720
Huron5517
Union5452
Scioto5117
Seneca48514
Ottawa46930
Preble44015
Muskingum4213
Holmes3909
Jefferson3364
Defiance32511
Henry31814
Logan3123
Champaign3083
Clinton29913
Perry2989
Brown2902
Knox28615
Jackson2636
Morrow2612
Washington26123
Hardin25613
Fulton2461
Crawford2446
Ashland2424
Coshocton23411
Fayette2326
Highland2303
Williams2133
Wyandot21312
Pike2000
Gallia19113
Meigs17610
Guernsey1708
Hocking1669
Carroll1527
Adams1354
Van Wert1233
Monroe11018
Paulding1100
Harrison643
Morgan490
Vinton473
Noble330
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Broken Clouds
57° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 57°
Angola
Broken Clouds
55° wxIcon
Hi: 55° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 55°
Huntington
Overcast
56° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 56°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
54° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 54°
Van Wert
Broken Clouds
54° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 44°
Feels Like: 54°
Fall-like Tuesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events