My name is Don Gordon BELL and I am one of the earliest of the first generation of KAD's (Korean ADoptees). The Korean War had been settled by Armistice three years before I left war-torn Seoul, Korea, on May 21, 1956. It was the first plane of twelve 'war babies' processed thru the Harry Holt Adoption Program. Read more of MY STORY on My Pages.
I grew up in a typical middle-class family of English-Scottish roots in greater Los Angeles, Ca, USA. Memories faded, Korean language was 'lost' and I did not know anything about the country of my birth until I met Korean Marines in Vietnam while serving with the US Marines. It was my first exposure to real Korean people. I was not completely aware of how prejudiced most Koreans thought towards a Half-Breed like me. I learned what "Tuigi" meant, a Korean word for a "Child of a Foreign devil". Oh, wonderful.

All my life I always had to answer the question: "What ARE you?" and I simply would tell 'my story'. It was not a big deal for me, for my Adoptive Parents had taught me that being an American meant that WE were from many countries. I never 'wished to be White' and just learned to stand up for my own identity. MY Identity was as an American, with mixed heritage. I did not know what being "Korean" meant but often wondered about my roots, and what my birth father's ethnicity. Mexican, Native Americans, and Spanish people would tell me that I had their 'genes' for sure. Little did I know they were right!

After college, I traveled to Manila and for ten years I lived in the Philippines. I was excepted as a 'mestizo' and fit into the former Spanish colony. I was a B-movie Character Actor,
working on international and local films, enjoying a 'crazy and wild' abandonment. Then a life changing experience gave me faith in a personal Higher Being. After walking away from the film business, I lived back in the USA, not sure of my direction in life finding work in construction, finish carpentry, door hanging, and many other jobs I'd like to forget.

In 1991, at 38, I attended a Holt Heritage Camp that was a great experience and really began my own journey of Adoption Identity search. I had never thought much of my Korean culture, though I always felt proud of being "HALF-Korean" and "half-Something".

In 1994 I came back to Seoul, Korea, with my church Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and was invited to stay with a church in East Seoul, for one year. I have lived here since late 1995- re-discovering my "Korean-ness", teaching English and telling my Adoption Story to thousands of Korean students of all ages, helping their understanding of Korean Adoptees. It is one of the issues that Korea is now facing, even for its own secretly adopted children, those who were adopted IN-Country by Koreans who desired a family but due to problems with Infertility secretly adopt.

I was a charter member in 1997 (first dozen members) of GOA'L (Global Overseas Adoptees' Link, founded by Ami Nafzger) and continue to be involved with the complex issues of This Thing of Ours-Adoption. Thousands of KADs have visited Korea over the years, searching for their culture and Some search for birth family. Seventy-five thousand have come, yet only 2,400 plus have found Reunion with Birth family, often with varying results. There are many complexities, many don't want to search concerned about offending their Adoptive Families. Each KAD must decide what they want to do, when to do it, etc.

At 61, I am still 'working thru' my Adoption Identity. Each of YOU need to 'work through' your own understanding and hopefully find forgiveness and healing. Read many different accounts and compare before coming to conclusions. I hope that you will learn what IS happening NOW, in the land of your birth, the Rep. of Korea (South Korea). (See Report Links).

Times are changing, the reasons for 'relinquishment for adoption' have shifted, but there continues to be a need for a multi-tiered approach and understanding of Adoption issues. Slowly, attitudes of Korean society ARE changing for the better. But, the majority continue to feel embarrassment and shame. Thus, Adoption is still shrouded in secrecy even for those who are adopted In-country. There ARE positive signs and movements of NGO's and KAD groups are advocating for the Unwed Mothers. However, two-thirds of pregnant women each year, continue to give up their babies for adoption. One out of four are sent overseas, YET three are secretly adopted in-country. The Myth that "Koreans don't adopt" is false, but they need to open up and hopefully change their shame to pride.

This blog is for EVERYONE, whether you are an Adoptee, Adoptive Family, Birth Family or involved in Adoption in ANY way as a professional, social worker, official, etc, from Korea or the world. We examine the complex issues and personal journeys that we, domestic and overseas adoptees, have to face and sort out in This Thing of Ours-Adoption. (Use the Ligit Search function (Left Column) to check for Posts on various topics, TransRacial, TranCultural, MultiCultural families, Domestic, Civil Code Law Adoptions, InterCountry Adoption, etc.)
I personally have come to a compromised, nuanced position on this thing of ours-adoption. I advocate a Multi-tiered Plan that tries to be balanced, realistic, fair to all.

UPDATE: Living in the Philippines since 2010, at first teaching students from several countries as an Online Tutor, based in Makati, Metro Manila. I was working on a Digital Library for Online Tutoring or ELearning; developing an agritourism farm; and Overseas Retirement Care for foreigners needing 24/7 health care.

Then some 18 months ago, in July of 2012 I met with Andrew Leavold, a crazy film obsessed Aussie who helped "pull me back into film making".

WHEW! Lot on my plate. I have also been learning much about the Filipino society's very different viewpoints on unwed motherhood and adoption.

Latest: As of Sept. 2012, I worked on an Indie Film, "Baybayin, the Palawan Script", directed by Auraeus Solito, and international award winning Filipino director. I had a role in the film and explored my hobby as a STILLS Photographer. Currently I have quit all teaching, co-writing on an international film that will be done in 3D and CGI effects. I am back in the film-making business and I love it.

Adoption Discourse needs to hear YOUR VOICE. Every opinion, even opposing viewpoints will be posted and interaction invited by email and Comments have been activated again with spam filters!)
. Welcome, come learn, and share your thoughts.

April 29, 2009

War Baby- Devil Child

"War Baby- Devil Child"

A Journey of Self-Identity

March of 1956, it had been three years since Korea had been torn by Civil war, a Cold War between Communism and the Free World. The ‘Land of Morning CalmSeoul was filled with homeless and poor, struggling to live day by day. suffered three years of total war that ravaged the country and people, separating millions from each other, and left it still divided. Korean civilians were caught in the middle and killed by both sides, victims of savage, total modern war. The entire country was shattered, all aspects of civilization crushed. In the ashes of flattened buildings, the capital of Seoul, Korea.

A young Korean mother cautiously brought her four-year old son and one year old daughter through the streets of downtown Seoul. The young woman knew that because her children’s father had been a ‘foreign devil’, that they would always be cursed and rejected by her people. She dyed their light brown hair with black shoe polish to hide them better but their faces still looked strange and noticeable. (Korean people called her children “TuiGi/튀기” a pure Korean word that means “Child of the Dust or Nothingness”, a derogatory slang word, used for Black/Korean ‘breeds’ but also for all ‘mixed-blood’ children. It had another meaning, a “child of a devil”. A nicer term is HonHyolA (혼혈아) from the Chinese and Korean words that still have racist connotations of ’half-breed’ or’ mixed-blood’).

Several thousand ‘mixed-blooded’ children were scattered throughout Korea living on the streets near military bases. Some were by-products of desperate Korean women servicing foreign troops as ‘camp followers’, entertainers who sang, danced, or provided sexual gratification. It was the only way, the best way, to earn a living. The troops had cash, food, and PX privileges, in exchange for services and entertainment. Laundry women, houseboys, bar owners, shop owners, prostitutes, thieves stealing anything and everything from the bases, all supported extended networks of Korean society. It has always been the same in times of war throughout history. The children born of these various liaisons were a rainbow of ethnicities representing the 22 United Nations Command troops. ‘War Babies’, ‘G.I. Babies’, they were the outcasts of Korean society, and ‘dust of the streets’ (“The Unforgotten War: Dust of the Streets” by Thomas Park Clement).

Few people had extra food for strangers, barely enough for their own. Then the young mother heard a rumor; find the flag of their father flying over a building near the city hall. Unwanted children were being collected and sent to homes in their father’s countries. There they could have hope and a good life. The determined young mother finally finds the flag of their American father waving over the Reception Center of World Vision. Outside the gate of the compound many Korean people watch in amazement at the strange sight of ‘Woi Gook In/외국인(Foreigners) and the ‘mixed-blood’ children. Then a kind looking foreigner, a man in his fifties, noticed them lingering near the gate in uncertainty. The American man, Harry Holt, approached them with a warm smile, called over a young Korean Pastor, David Kim, to help speak to them. Looking into his strange round eyes, her fear diminished. There she saw a deep concern and love. He gently reached out his strong hands, took her son’s hand and wordlessly he guided them through the gate.

Who am I? Search for Identity

My name is Donald Gordon Bell, I was that young boy and my younger sister, Lorelei Susan Bell, was the baby. We were some of the earliest Holt adoptees- my flight was the first group from Holt and my sister was on the first Chartered flight in 1956. I believed that our mothers gave us up, in love but with much sorrow, hoping for a good American family to take us, providing what she could never give us under the circumstances. I cannot imagine what she thought or felt, did she leave us and just forget? I don’t believe so, and by reading and hearing how many birth mothers suffered through the years wondering what happened, has helped me mentally understand and forgive. I will attempt to share my journey on this humble blog. I will be brutally open and honest as much as possible.

Korean War MuseumImage by UNC - CFC - USFK via Flickr

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  1. I love reading your blog,big bro.

  2. I look forward to reading more about your journey


  3. Good story Don, never thought your roots were Korean. I'm gonna read more of it. I think we last 'met' on Cirio's set Equalizer 2000. Then you took of in the middle of all the action. It feels good to see you doing well. Berto

  4. I have been reading your blog most of this morning. I have an adopted Korean daughter from Holt also...she was 2 when we adopted her and she is 5 1/2 now.

    I read Harry and Bertha Holt's book before our little Eun-Ji came to live with us. I am trying to learn as much as I can from adult adoptee's so that I can help my girls (one from China) more with their stories. Eun-Ji grieves deeply for her family although has never shared anything verbally with me...yet. I pray one day that we can find her family , I too believe that her mother loved her deeply and just had no other choice. Thank you again for your honesty and for sharing this very private story with everyone. I feel that it will help alot of AP's if they desire to be educated. Blessings

  5. amazing... i stumbled on this looking at info about my husbands mother. she is korean, his father american. she lives here in the states. but the story doesnt end there....his mothers life is a mystery. she doesnt talk much. but what ive managed to coax out of her. she didnt know her mother. but has heard that she was Japanese. abandoned at birth we believe. it amazing the things u start to dig up when u actually look. both of my grandfathers were in the " korean conflict" i worry that there are unclaimed aunts and uncles out there. how could i even begin to find out? .....

  6. My father was in the Korean war..and I was told I have a brother from either China/Korea or Japan, but I am not so sure he was a he..may be a sister..He passed away recently on Christmas day and I would love to finally meet him or her. My father denied he was my father until his dying day :((( Can anyone help me in my journey...would be very appreciated :))))

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