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.


July 18, 2009

Reflections for Adoption Day - INSIDE JoongAng Daily

Last Adoption Day, JoongAng Daily had this interesting article in English/Korean.

 

“May 11, 2009

Singer Cho Young-nam once retold the first time he met his adopted daughter. “Late one day, I went to a child care center where my wife said she came across a girl she liked and asked me to go over and see for myself.” While he was walking down the corridor, he heard whispers from caregivers saying they wished Eun-ji would be chosen because otherwise she would be headed to the orphanage a few months later. As he was about to step into a room where he could choose a toddler, he suddenly heard a loud voice inside his head crying out how wrong this was. “I wasn’t on a shopping spree. I shouldn’t be checking out a girl as if she was a pretty shoe to buy!” With that thought, he returned to the center’s office and asked for a girl named Eun-ji.

On that day 15 years ago, a 5-year-old girl found a home with the Cho family instead of the orphanage.
Today Korea commemorates Adoption Day. Up until the early 1990s, few were brave enough in this conservative society with its deep-rooted notions of family blood to open up about adopting a child. But as society has grown more accepting, it is no longer a hush-hush matter; about half of adoption cases last year were administered openly through agencies.

Still the country is dogged with the stigma of sending so many of its babies to homes overseas. Since 1958, when the country first started keeping records of overseas-bound adoptions, the total of Korean-born adoptees has numbered 160,000.

American Brooke Newmaster, while visiting the land of her birth, testified how adoptees live with the pain of having to time after time explain and convince others as well as themselves of their identity. Sweden-raised Tobias Hubinette in his study, “Comfortin an Orphaned Nation” on the connection between overseas adoption and Korean nationalism, chastised the country of their birth; the government not only saved huge sums in welfare costs but pocketed $4,000 to $7,000 in fees for each baby sent abroad. They feel they were abandoned by their motherland as well as their birth mothers.

What they ask of their birth country is not just encouragement to keep babies in Korean soil but to increase the support to unmarried single mothers. Almost all overseas adoptees were born to unwed mothers.
Author Jane Jeong Trenka, who wrote on trans-racial adoption experiences in “The Language of Blood,” taunted: “Korea is a country that bans exports of Jindo dogs. Is a child of an unwed mother less worthy than a dog?”
Ironically, support for Korea’s unwed mothers is coming from outside the country. Dr. Richard Boas, an American father of a girl adopted from Korea, has founded the Korea Unwed Mothers Support Network. “What is more precious to a newborn than a mother’s love and care?” he asks.
It is a question we all need to ask ourselves on today’s Adoption Day.
The writer is a deputy economic news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Lee Na-ree [windy@joongang.co.kr]


입양아와 진돗개

가수 조영남 씨에게서 딸 은지를 입양할 당시 얘기를 들은 적이 있다. "늦은 저녁, 아내가 아기를 봐뒀다는 영아원으로 갔어요. 원장이 나한테도 맘에 드는 애가 있는지 한번 둘러보라더군요." 복도를 따라 걷는데 뒤에서 보모들이 소곤거렸다. "은지가 됐으면 좋았을 걸." "몇 달 있으면 고아원으로 가야 하잖아." 첫 번째 방문을 열었다. 들어서려는 순간, '이건 아니다!' 하는 생각이 머리를 땅 때렸다. '애가 무슨 고무신인가, 예쁘면 골라 가고 미우면 외면하게.' 원장실로 되돌아가 물었다. "은지란 아이는 어디 있나요?" 다섯 살, 고아원에 갈 처지이던 꼬마는 그에게로 와 '조은지'가 됐다. 벌써 15년 전 일이다.
옛 사연을 새삼 꺼내는 건 오늘이 '입양의 날'이어서다. 1990년대만 해도 '다 자란 아이'를 공개 입양하는 건 매우 드문 일이었다. 요즘은 세월이 변해, 국내 사례의 절반 정도는 완전 공개 입양이다. 더 큰 변화는 2007년부터 국내 입양이 해외 입양 건수를 소폭 앞지른 것이다. 그렇더라도 한국이 세계 5위권의 '아기수출 대국'임엔 변함이 없다. 1958~2007년 해외 입양인 16만여 명. 누적 통계론 세계 1위다.
"타인은 물론 자신에게도 매번 정체성을 설명하고 납득시켜야 하는 고통"(입양인 브룩 뉴매스터) 속에 살아온 이들에게 모국은 가해자다. 스웨덴의 입양인 출신 사회학자 토비아스 후비네트(한국명 이삼돌)는 "과거 한국 정부는 해외 입양을 통해 막대한 복지 비용을 줄이고 건 당 4000~7000달러의 수수료까지 챙겼다"(『해외 입양과 한국 민족주의』)고 비판한다. 자신들을 버린 건 생모가 아닌 국가라는 인식이다. 이들의 바람은 뜻밖에도 국내 입양 확대가 아닌 미혼모 지원이다. 해외 입양아의 99%는 미혼모 자녀다. 오죽하면 미국 입양인 작가 제인 정 트렌카가 "한국은 진돗개 수출마저 금지하는 나라다. 미혼모 아이는 개보다 못하단 말이냐"고 쏘아붙였을까.
그런 의미에서 한국인 딸을 입양한 미국 의사 리처드 보아스 씨의 선택은 특별하다. 한때 '버려진 한국 아기'의 미국 입양을 후원했던 그는 지금 한국미혼모지원네트워크 대표다. 그는 묻는다. "아이에게 생모의 보살핌보다 더 좋은 게 있을까요?" 입양의 날, '입양 없는 날'을 꿈꾸며 우리 사회가 스스로에게 물어야 할 말 아닐런지.
이나리 경제부문 차장”

For your own link:

Reflections for Adoption Day - INSIDE JoongAng Daily

 

My Thoughts:

The Korean War Baby regrets that babies are still being produced by unwed young men and women. Each year the number of teenage pregnancy cases increases leading to the practice of Abortion as a means of birth control and population management. Last year it is estimated by NGO’s that one million Abortions took place. It amazes me that any baby is born alive and available for adoption. The number of Single Unwed mothers who chose to try and raise their child is understandably very few.

Can we blame the mothers? Faced with NO support from their parents, or on their own, themselves having run away from unhealthy families, abuse, or just a young woman who CHOSES to give LIFE to her baby. In the 1950 or ‘60 in America a single unwed mother would be facing about the same Cultural, Social, and Family, indifference and lack of support. Korea needs much improvement in this area, without a doubt. But will it take another decade or two before Korea becomes like the West in this area? Yes, I believe it will take many more years.

It is written in the Bible:

          Eze 16:4  And as for your birth, in the day you were born your navel was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you. And you were not salted, nor swaddled at all.
Eze 16:4  너의 난 것을 말하건대 네가 날 때에 네 배꼽줄을 자르지 아니하였고 너를 물로 씻어 정결케 하지 아니하였고 네게 소금을 뿌리지 아니하였고 너를 강보에 싸지도 아니하였나니
Eze 16:5  No eye pitied you, to do any of these to you, to have compassion on you. But you were thrown out into the open field, because your life was despised in the day that you were born.
Eze 16:5  너를 돌아 보아 이 중에 한 가지라도 네게 행하여 너를 긍휼히 여긴 자가 없었으므로 네가 나던 날에 네 몸이 꺼린바 되어 네가 들에 버리웠었느니라

Korean people do indeed Abandon its unborn, give away their own born-alive children for adoption, BUT only 52% last year were Domestic Adoptions. Thousands crowd the facilities for Rejected, Abandoned, despised and unwanted. Slowly the attitudes are changing for the better, Koreans are willing to adopt one who is not “of their blood”.

Perhaps we adoptees can help change the hearts and minds of the people by encouragement, cajoling, shaming, pleading, informing, etc.  Unfortunately, InterCountry Adoptions are a STILL necessary “evil” in order that every child has a home. It is better that a loving family adopt them than to grow up in crowded understaffed institutions.

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