THIS THING OF OURS-ADOPTION
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.
May 3, 2009
Children of War
Finally figured out how to ‘sign in’, use the RIGHT email account, Lord help me, learning to do a blog is terribly difficult for this ole’ Marine. I will try to sort this out and make this entry. Please bare with me as this is really work in progress, hey, that could be the name of a book “Work in Progress”. Okay, got to do this thing while I am still awake. Here is some more of my story:
“My sister and I grew up believing that our Korean birth mothers, or first mothers, had made a great sacrifice in order for us to have a good future. Our adoptive parents explained these things as we grew up. I understand the feelings of ‘loss’ that ‘full blooded’ Korean Adoptees also have experienced in losing their heritage by being sent away from our Motherland. We all suffered whether we were adopted as a baby or older child.
Joe Soll, an adoptee, and psychologist, based in New York, NY, is an author of several books. He draws from “The Primal Wound”, by Nancy Verrier, that this first trauma of abandonment is followed by several more that all adoptees endure. His book “Adoption Healing, a Path to Recovery” is an excellent book for all members of the Adoption Triad, especially for us adoptees. To a young child or even a fetus in the womb, a ‘fear of abandonment’ plagues our Inner Child, deep in the sub-conscious mind, a lifelong wounding that is difficult to heal.
Throughout my life I have tried to deal with “Who AM I?” In my mind as a five year old, deep in my spirit, my ‘Inner Child’ was pierced and wounded. My self-identity was always linked to “My Adoption Story” that I would recite without emotion to all those curious folks who looked at my white parents then asked, “This is your son? Oh, Adopted…and exactly what ARE you?” (And I just wanted to hit them! Come on, haven't you felt that as well.) As a Half-Breed though I always get the opposite from 'full-blooded' Koreans, even Adoptees have many times asked me at GOA'L meetings, "Why are you here?" As some famous charactor said so well, "Doh!"
A Child of War
I was born on January 25, 1952, some 18 months after the start of the war. My sister was born on June 9, 1955, three years five months later. My Korean name was Jun Yong Soo and my sister was Jun Chul Ahn. A woman with two mixed-race children, and possibly two different ‘fathers’, would have been unable to take care of us. I never felt angry towards my birth mother, and my Adoptive parents, both Christian, raised me to understand my birth mother’s predicament. I was told that we are Adopted into God’s family. Only in my mid 30’s did I begin to accept these Christian views personally, but one does not have to be religious to understand all the “why’s” of their life’s existence. We need to have an open mind, to hear all voices in this complex issue. I hope my story will help all members of the Adoption Triad, (Adoptee/Birth Family members/Adoptive Family members) sort out their own story, find understanding and peace.