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 13, 2009

Unlucky Female Babies


“The Abandoned Princess-7th Daughter”

Last year, in May of 2008, I met a Korean student who told me that she had been adopted domestically. Her name must remain secret because some of her relatives do not actually know that she was given up for adoption. I will call her 'Marie' because her story is very similar to a Korean Folk story called "Abandoned Princess" or " Ba Ri Gong Ju".


"In Korea, not having a son was especially bad luck, and based on the teachings of Confucius a woman who did not produce a son, broke one of the “Seven Virtues”. The husband could divorce her and marry another woman, because a son was necessary for continuing the blood lines.

‘The Seventh daughter’ were considered especially bad luck, because she was considered to be cursed with special psychic powers or fortunetelling abilities. She was also born in the year of the Horse, very inauspicious for daughters!

A famous legend is known, from the Shaman religion, of a “seventh daughter of a Neo-Chosen King who “Threw away his unlucky seventh daughter”. Her name was Princess Bari and her name literally means “Thrown away or Abandoned Princess”. The Mudang priestesses sing her sacred song, a Muga, to help the souls of the dead into the next cycle of life.

"Bari Gongju Muga” is the “Song of the Abandoned Princess” who did her filial duty and helped save her father and mother, even though they had thrown her away.

In the legend the Princess became a goddess and the Matriach of all the Shaman priesthood. Mudangs sing her song to ask Princess Bari to guide the spirit of the deceased into the next life cycle."

The reason that 'Marie' and her story surprised me was that I began to learn about Domestic Adoptees, In-Country adoptions that I would soon find out numbered in the ten's of thousands. I asked many fellow adoptees just how many Domestic Adoptees there were and no one seemed to know. Molly Holt then told me, "more than 80,000 plus 20,000 Private adoptions, like the Dutch diplomat and his wife, who gave up their Korean girl after bearing 'natural' sons."

In May of 2008, just one year ago, I had pretty much given up finding my birthmother but now "just when I thought I was out...they pulled me back in!" as Al Pacino would say. I became so caught up as I began to get up to speed on the Adoption situation in Korea. I had not even gone to GOA'L meeting since getting married, missing several yearly GOA'L conferences. I learned that more than 87,000 Domestic Adoptees, NOT counting perhaps 20,000 plus Private Adoptees undocumented by the government, are living in the country and 85% of them DON'T KNOW that they were adopted. Korean people still prefer to keep it a secret. I knew Korea had adoption within the family but had no idea there were so many. Molly Holt first told me of these domestic adoption numbers.

Then I read Tobias Hubinette's book, "Comforting an Orphaned Nation", and learned about the Korean's governments repeated attempt to get Korean people to adopt children that are not of their lineage. In 1973 after 'Dear Leader' Kim Il Sung accused the Southern government of 'selling children' the ROK (South) started a program that all government officials SHOULD adopt a child.

There have been many attempts to change the society's views on adopting a child that is not of their bloodline. Dr. David Hyungbok Kim in his book "Who Will Answer..." reports that in 1955 the Adoption Laws of the Republic of Korea stated that a child could be adopted only from a related family member. A Family Registry lists the family name and the region, such as "Kim Hae", means that only a child with the Surname of Kim from the Hae region could be adopted. If the child had the name Kim from another Kim line they would NOT be able to even adopt. Dr. David Kim was the man who told me about my sister and I. He lamented that the thousands of children separated from their parents from the war could not be LEGALLY adopted by Korean people.


To find out late in life that you were adopted is something I cannot imagine. I found websites on Late Discovery Adoptees Late Discovery - Home from America that told the stories of the 20% of adoptees in the USA that are NOT told that they were adopted. Some found out in their forties and fifties, after their parents had died, discovering adoption papers hidden in desks or file cabinettes. For the last year I have studied, joined one group after another, read from every part of the Triad-Adoptive Parents, Birth Family, and Adoptee. I have saved hundreds of documents from newspapers, book reviews, websites from all aspects of the controversy. I wanted to find out the truth, hear from every voice, even the 'angry, hurt, abused, unhappy adoptees'. I needed to hear the Good, Bad, Ugly, Sad, Happy, Successful, ALL of it before I could come to my own conclusions.


'Marie' found out when she tried to give blood for one of her parent's surgery, the nurse bluntly told her. "You Can't give blood...your blood type doesn't match either of your parents. Are you Adopted?" This was only a few years ago.

"Marie never expected to find out she had even one sister, but six? One day a surprise call came from one of them, the sixth sister, who had searched for her, the long lost sister who had been given away to be adopted.Marie had been the unlucky seventh daughter.

Marie was born the same year that my first child was born, my own daughter, born after a wild Christmas holiday with her Filipina mother. Have I shared that yet? For that story please go to
Korean War Baby "Tale of Two Women".


The Korean War Baby has met several times with Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea (MPAK)
Korean Adoption - Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea (MPAK) leader Steve Morrison. He introduced me to co-founder Mrs. Han Yeonhee and more than 50 families in the Ansan-Anyong-Suwan area who have adopted, many with Open Adoption with the Natural mothers. See the post or Documents available on sidebar on "Openness in Korean Adoptions" to download report by Prof. P. Haynes and Kim Kyungeun. This report tells about the attempts to try Open adoption and the difficulties that happen for all involved.


The Laws have been changing to increase and encourage Domestic Adoptions, raising the age limits to 60, single persons can even adopt, incentives are given, etc. (more to be posted on current Adoption Laws). But laws do not change HEARTS. Domestic adoption still barely exceeds 52% of available babies, who after surviving huge odds of 'elimination by abortion', are born alive and well.

Author: Dory MartinImage via Wikipedia

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2 comments:

  1. This is great suff Bro!

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  2. I think the system to keep adoptees in a family related situation has some advantages, the new parents are no strangers to the child(ren) and even when your not told you're adopted the chance of getting married with an unknown close relative is smaller. I mean,you might marry your own sister without knowing she is..

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