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.


August 16, 2009

Adoption History::Pearl Buck, "The Children Waiting: The Shocking Scandal of Adoption," 1955

Part Four: Pearl S. Buck

Adoption History::Pearl Buck, "The Children Waiting: The Shocking Scandal of Adoption," 1955

Source:  Courtesy of Pearl S. Buck International

Buck with a Welcome House child, late 1960s

Because of Buck’s popularity, her article criticizing agency social workers, sectarian institutions, and the reigning matching paradigm attracted a great deal of attention, including a letter of protest from Joseph Reid, the Executive Director of the Child Welfare League of America.

Two babies came [to me] from adoption agencies, where they were considered unadoptable because it was difficult to find adoptive parents to “match” them. I was sure that there must be good families, matching or not, who could love these babies and indeed there were. . . .

Yet I continue acutely and constantly aware of the thousands of children waiting. . . . These are the citizens of my new world, the children without parents and the parents without children, pressing eagerly toward each other, and yet unable to reach each other. A barrier stands between, a high wall, and in the middle of the wall is a narrow gate, kept locked until a social agency unlocks it a little way and lets one child through at a time. . . .

Nobody knows truthfully how many children are in our orphanages. There are many kinds of orphanages but the largest number belong to religious groups. It was once necessary, I do not doubt, for religious orders to care for orphans, but certainly that day is past. Parents are waiting to adopt them. True, it would be very difficult to close these orphanages, not because of the children but because of vested interests. . . .

The rights of natural parents over children must be defined. Children are not property, but they are considered so under our laws. . . . There is no magic in blood relationship when parents alienate their children by neglect or desertion. Yet under our laws and our customs blood still takes precedence, blood instead of the reality of love. . . . The human qualities of love and understanding and acceptance alone should decide the fate of a child rather than race and religion.

Where all else is equal, of course similarity in race and religion is good but human destiny should not be based on these two elements. . . . I venture to say, were the dead hands of neglectful relatives removed, were the divisive and possessive jealousies of religious groups replaced by the spirit of true religion. . .that nearly all children, at least up to the age of 12, would be easily adoptable. No, when I think of teen-age boys and girls I see children still hungry for home and parents and I withdraw the age limitation.

And how. . .could we ever get so many children adopted when our social agencies cannot cope with what we have? I submit a controversial answer. It could be done if the red tape of adoption procedures were eliminated and only essentials kept. There are, I am sure, sincere and unselfish social workers and religious persons in the field of child welfare and adoption who honestly believe that they are doing the best that can be done, unaware that they themselves are the hindrances because they are faithful to red tape and encrusted in tradition. . . .

There is a surplus of children but the parents who are waiting are prevented from adopting them. . . . Let no small arguments be raised here. It is idle to retort, for example, that adoptive parents usually want a perfect child, that most children are not perfect, and so on. They can be helped to want a handicapped children, a child of mixed origin, or any child at all. . . . We can tear down the walls that keep them prisoners of red tape, prejudice and religious division. . . . We can refuse to accept the excuse that there are not enough children to satisfy adoptive parents.

Source: Pearl S. Buck, “The Children Waiting: The Shocking Scandal of Adoption,” Woman's Home Companion, September 1955, 33, 129-132.

The Korean War Baby comments:

Well, knock me over with a forklift, seems that this woman might have influenced Harry Holt a bit. We will have to consult Molly Holt on this, did Pearl influence Harry or the other way around. Some have mocked the “Christian ideology that inspired Holt” to start the Holt Adoption Program and go against Social Welfare standards in the USA against adopting what is known today as “TransRacial Adoption.”

Some have put the blame on Harry Holt for TransRacial Adoptions becoming the norm. It is true that Harry Holt received TV and Newspaper massive coverage that seemed to give him most of the credit. However, there were many other organizations in Korea before Harry Holt came in 1955 to adopt eight Korean Orphans. In “Seed from the East” Bertha Holt tells how Harry was given credit for bringing a group from Child Placement Agency, a quasi-government organization that later became privatized as Social Welfare Society (SWS) in 1970.

CPA actually helped process the Holt’s first group of 12, that left on May 21, 1956 but spent until the 11th of June in Toyko, Japan because of chicken pox quarantine.

DepartureMay21_56_ArrivalJun11_56Honolulu

Departure May 21,1956 (on left side) Admitted Jun 11, 1956 in Honolulu, T. H. (Territory of Hawaii)

From the Korean War Baby’s Passport, I was Holt Adoptee #A-20, Jun Yong Soo, soon to become Donald Gordon BELL.

Harry Holt has been ‘demonized’ by a few who do not quite understand the WHOLE history of those times. Holt became the scourge of some who are seemingly completely against TransRacial Adoptions.

Not Angry Adoptees vs. Happy Adoptees

We must stop comparing Angry vs. Happy Adoptees. We are all victims of life and suffer abandonment, separation, attachment difficulty, personal problems of lack of trust, etc. It is NOT US and THEM.

Those who had ‘bad experiences’ in adoption are not all “angry adoptees”, something that the Korean War Baby has learned personally, because he joined groups such as ASK (Adoptee’s Solidarity Korea) and TRACK (Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea). He found ASK and TRACK adoptees and Koreans as honest, diligent, sincere people. Hey, they were NOT even Angry, well most of them, but even the ones who are angry have SO much to be angry about, it is from the roots of deep sorrow, pain, wounding of their spirit.

Some have had huge problems seeking answers and getting complete files from Adoption Agencies. These are issues that are being addressed by improving the Post-Adoption Services. Western minds understanding the Korean ways of doing and thinking can often clash.

The Korean War Baby found ASK and TRACK members seeking answers on a wide range of issues that he also agreed with to certain degrees. Such as helping prevent pregnancy, increasing support from the Korean government for Unwed Mothers, promoting Domestic adoptions in Korea.

In seeking truth and viewpoints from all, we must know what each other believes. There is much common ground that we can all stand on and accept on putting the welfare of the child first. I believe that only small issues exist where disagreement may compel us all to seek better answers and possible compromise.

Again, the Korean War Baby feels that as long as children are born and given up by mothers willingly, they should be then adopted by if possible ethnic Koreans, both domestic or living abroad Koreans, then part Koreans, then Korean Adoptees, then by families of “other ethnicity”. Whew! There is a pyramid or tower of order of what is “idea” to the next best thing. That is life, yes?

Mothers must NOT be not pushed, tricked, coerced in any way, etc. The Hague Convention should and must be signed by Korea and strictly enforced. By working together, perhaps fewer children will be parentless, fatherless, abandoned by divorce (OH, there is another huge problem here in Korea in the recent years). The world is not perfect but we can work to improve it. Can anyone disagree with that?

2 comments:

  1. Interesting idea of ethnic hierarchy for suitability of adoptive parents! One wonders what is the best thing(s) to do! The mother of Moses gave him up for "adoption" to the daughter of a pharaoh—both a gentile (non-Jew) AND enemy oppressor! Yet it was all part of his training to prepare him to lead the greatest deliverance operation—and military defeat of the then world’s mightiest army—in history. Hmmm...!

    Just don’t get me going about adoption by homosexuals!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nolin,
    I hear you on the Homosexuals and Singles adopting, I AM TOTALLY against that practice. However the Korean Gov. is HAS BEEN for three years allowing both, though few have done so. Famous designer (Won't mention his name) is both, and has adopted a child. I have to say that even though I am against the policy, I can see that maybe the child might turn out "ok" and "Straight".
    Yes, I love the story of Moses. The Gov. of Korea is presently pushing Domestic Adoption, then Ethnic Koreans living in USA and elsewhere. They are trying to do this YET still roughly 50% of Children BORN are NOT adopted by Ethnic Koreans THUS the continued need for InterCountry Adoptions.

    Thanks for the comments.

    ReplyDelete

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