THIS THING OF OURS-ADOPTION

THE KOREAN WAR BABY

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 13, 2009

Dr. Bob Pierce recruits the Holts






















Dr. Bob Pierce was a young pastor who was deeply burdened. During the Korean War aid workers were finding thousands of children separated from their parents, most not knowing whether they were dead or alive. Families were split apart, some taken north by force, others unable to find each other in the chaos in the large cities where refugees were packed into camps. Mixed-Blood children, known as Tuigi, were showing up with their Korean mothers after being abandoned by their foreign 'boyfriends' or dying in battle. They were offspring of liaisons of Korean women and Foreign troops of the 22 United Nations. These children of war were already appearing on the streets. The half-breed or Mixed-blood children were especially despised by the conservative Confucian influenced Korean people who took pride of their pure blood and homogeneous society. Dr. Pierce co-founded World Vision with Dr. Han KyungJik as a way to get support for the children of the streets. Sponsorship programs connected donors to specific children to provide assistance.


Mrs. Harry Holt, The Seed from the East, 1956


The Holt family on the back stairs of their home in Creswell, Oregon.
This is how Bertha Holt recalled the events that led her and Harry Holt to adopt eight Korean children and facilitate the adoptions of thousands of others. The story began in 1954, when the Holt family attended a meeting in Eugene, Oregon. Bob Pierce, the president of World Vision, showed several films, spoke about the organization’s missionary efforts in Korea, and asked people in the audience to sponsor orphans for $10 per month. In addition to their shared Christian faith, the contrast between Korean racism and American tolerance was fundamental to Pierce’s appeal. Holts’ subsequent efforts continued this theme, emphasizing Americans’ special responsibility to act on behalf of the “GI babies” left behind by military men. Bertha Holt’s book concludes with a special prayer “to help the mixed-race children of Korea. Father. . .we especially plead for the negro-Korean children.” The Holts’ international adoptions, and those depicted in narratives like The Family Nobody Wanted played crucial political roles during the Cold War, addressing racial dilemmas at home as well as humanitarian crises abroad.
Then came the scenes that shattered our hearts. We saw before us the tragic plight of hundreds of illegitimate children. . .GI-babies. . .children that had American fathers and Korean mothers. . .children that had been hidden by remorseful mothers until it was no longer possible to keep their secret. Finally the children were allowed to roam the streets where they were often beaten by other children who had never known Koreans with blond hair. . .or blue eyes.
Following this documentary evidence of the shameful result of undisciplined conduct, Dr. Pierce related to the audience more of the things that he, himself, had seen. He told how he had driven a jeep by an army dump on one occasion and noticed what looked like a human form almost hidden beneath the garbage and flies. He stopped the jeep to investigate and found, beneath grime and indescribable dirt, a little boy. His skin was light. His eyes were blue. His hair was brown. He was a GI-baby. He had been left there to die.
“The Koreans are very race conscious,” Dr. Pierce said. “Mixed-race children will never be accepted into Korean society. Even the youngsters, themselves, are conscious of the difference. At a very early age they seem to sense that something is wrong.”
Dr. Pierce continued with severe criticism of the men who had turned their backs on those tiny, outstretched arms.
I looked at Harry. He was motionless and tense. I knew every scene had cut him like a knife. I was hurt, too. There is so much we have never known. We had never thought of such suffering and heartbreak. We had never heard of such poverty and despair. We had never seen such emaciated arms and legs, such bloated starvation-stomachs and such wistful little faces searching for someone to care. . . .
To Harry and me had been allotted ten orphans. . .all from an orphanage near Taegu. They were divided evenly—five girls and five boys. The folders described them as being in good health. None were blind or crippled. None were mixed-race children. Their ages ranged from three to fourteen. The youngest and the oldest were both girls. Their parents had either been killed during the war or had succumbed to disease following the war.
We especially enjoyed the letters that came with the pictures. They were composed of carefully written characters placed horizontally across the page. Since the numbers are the same as ours we recognized the date of the writing (12/15/1954). The letters of the pre-school children were written by older children who lived in the orphanages with them.
Kim Un Lyon’s letter was typical of those received.
“Dear My Sponsor, How are you getting along who are thousands of miles away? I am well and study hard with the help of God and Jesus Christ, our Lord, and your favor. Nowadays in Korea the winter has come and snowstorms are falling. I am very curious to know about the weather in the country where you are living. I am very happy when I think that my letter will be answered, after it is read by you, and I don’t know what to do. Indeed I am very happy. Hoping your good care and love. Bye for now. Kim Un Lyon.”
We all read our letters aloud. We loved each one. . . .
More and more I found myself wishing we could bring some of the Korean orphans into our own home where we could love and care for them. I would walk from room to room thinking of how we could put a cot here. . .and another bed there. It even occurred to me that some of the rooms could be partitioned and made into two rooms without depriving anyone. In fact, some of the rooms even appeared empty as I looked at them.
There was certainly no problem where the other areas of the house were concerned. Our living room was never full except when we had a large Bible class attending. Our dining room might possibly be small. . .especially when we had company. . .but between the dining room and the living room was the library and that could just as easily be considered an annex to the dining room. Isn’t it true that when we want to see something materialize, we’re always able to make the necessary adjustments?
In thinking about particulars, I decided that eight would be the number we could actually absorb into the family. Any more might work a hardship for the children themselves. . . .
On Friday, April 15th, Harry voiced the burden on his heart.
“I’ve been thinking I’d like to go to Korea.”
“I know. I’ve been hoping you’d go.”
For a moment he just sat quietly and looked out the window. Then he spoke again.
“Every night when I go to bed, I see those pictures all over again. It doesn’t make any difference where I am or what I’m doing. I think about those kids over there. I look out here at this beautiful playground God has so generously given us and something inside of me cries out at the thought of those poor little babies starving to death, or being thrown into dumps to be gnawed by rats.”
Again there was silence but I knew he had more to say and would appreciate saying it as he felt it. So I just sat still and listened.
“I think we ought to adopt some of the GI-children.”
“That’s the way I feel, too.”
“How many do you think we could take care of?”
I knew what I wanted to say. I had thought of it many times and I felt like bursting out with the number eight. Somehow, I lacked the courage. I knew Harry had thought long and hard about the matter, too, and I had no idea of the number he felt would be right. Finally I answered in a far-off squeaky little voice.
“I suppose we could care for six.”
“Oh my. . .we have plenty of room for eight. . .or ten. . .or even more.”
I felt a sudden, joyful release. Now I knew that Harry’s number even surpassed mine. . .and then I heard him continue to say, “Suzanne and Linda’s bedroom is big enough for two or more beds. We can put cots in some of the other bedrooms; and the game room can be partitioned off along that ceiling beam to make a big double bedroom.”
As I listened to Harry repeat almost word for word the very things I had told myself could be done, I realized that God was working in our hearts. Only God could bring about such a miracle.
The end

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