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 28, 2009

To meet a Mudang, or NOT

The display at the Jeju Folk and Nature Museum...Male Shaman Mudang-via Wikipedia

Thursday evening, 11:50 PM, May 29, 2009

What a week I have had, full of unusual happenings, experiencing taping (wait, if it is digital cameras is it ‘digitizing’?) for the cable network TVN. They have a show on Mon. at noon called, are you ready for this, “Exorcist”. It is based on the fact that one of the main sources of Para-normal experts employed by the program are Hypnotherapists and the traditional Shaman priestess called Mudangs. Mudangs are usually women in Korea (80% I have read) who are really ‘spiritualists’, persons with an ability to ‘see’ into the spiritual realm. Shamanism is based on ancient practices of contact with the spirit world, the Mudang enters a semi-trance state to communicate with spirits, ancestors, and the souls of the dead.

You might wonder WHY I agreed to go on the program…I indeed really questioned myself if it was wise. I actually turned them down because of my concern about how church people might feel towards me, because I had ‘consulted a Mudang’. Then, I thought about how 12 years ago Korean churches that begged me to come and share my story were shocked that my wife was divorcing me. They knew us both from the many times we came with the Vineyard group from Los Angeles. I was visiting every week two Churches other than the one I was supported by in East Seoul. When my first wife told me, “You should stay here, but I just want to go back and live in America, I am too homesick. You stay though, Korean people want to hear you.” Less than four months later K. was married again, I learned that she had met ‘him’ while she stayed with her parents because of her brother’s murder. I was not angry, I had tried to persuade her and even offered to quit the Full Gospel Church’s university job, teaching English at Hansae University. Our marriage is first priority and I was willing to 'work it out back in America'. "No, you need to stay in Korea. I will send you the paper to sign." Got them two days later by FedEx...hmmm.

Once the churches found out that I was now a Divorced man, the pastors said that I could not teach, which I understood completely. Then, one by one they asked me to not even visit. Well, I could only agree and honored their wishes, I thought God had another plan for me, WRONG. I thought that one day I would be able to again share my amazing story of my adoption and God’s love that pulled me back from the craziness that I was known for in the Philippines before I found God.

I prayed that God would give me wisdom. The KBS-1 show seemed to be the answer, it was a bigger network, more popular, etc. So I called GOA'L and said, ‘Sorry, but No. I cannot do the show.’ They were set to begin taping three days later. Then the second time, KBS called to say ‘Sorry, maybe next week’. I called GOA'L again, and asked what they actually do on the show. I said I did not want to take part in any Shamanist ritual or Kut, but would agree to meeting with one.

Tomorrow I will post the results of the Hypnotherapy, and two Mudang meetings. There was many things that must be noted, then set aside to ‘see if that thing comes to pass’. Even hypnotherapy is fraught with uncertainty such as confusion of learned facts blending with past memories, creating a false memory that seems totally real.

One ‘fact’ to be verified, that my Korean birth mother’s name was Jun Soon Hee. Under hypnosis I seemed to recall her name, spoken by others, friends and my birth father. Soon Hee is a common name, but both Mudangs came up with the same name! Of course, the producer and staff claim that they did not reveal the name to them, but I must wait and see if it is really her name. Only IF we meet will I know if these ‘memories’ and the Mudangs are ‘Right’. Time and connecting again will prove it right.

I remain hopeful, but wary, can it be that the impossible might happen? June 15th at Noon on Monday the show will air, then I must wait and see if anyone responds. The second young man (Mudang) feels my birth mother is alive but in poor health. I prayed that God would give her good health until we could meet.

I am ‘outside looking in’ at all of this, still worried about what other might think, yet when faced with a chance to get my story on the air made me reconsider. I know that God will forgive me and protect me, it will be only by GOD design if I meet my Korean birth mother here in this life. I have had Christian pastors and those with spiritual gifts tell me that my mother became a Christian in 1991, that she was being healed of the shame of giving my sister and I up for adoption. Perhaps soon in this life, I will find out IF we meet.

My thanks for all three of my readers, keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

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  1. I sincerely hope things work out for you Bro! I know you have been on this quest for years now!

    I remember what happened years ago at San Andres!

  2. Nick,
    Thanks so much for your support. If you get a chance sometime would you write out just a short note about March 2, 1985? Also perhaps you have some sections from your own book that concern Crazy Don stories that you could send to me by email. I will push your book on Facebook and on my blog so that all five of my readers can see it.