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

Pearl S. Buck- “The Child Who Never Grew”

http://www.offenburger.com/carlapaper.asp?link=20050805

“The Child Who Never Grew,” by Pearl S. Buck (1952, and a second edition in 1992)

“…And yet, almost more powerful and fascinating was the “Foreword” written by James A. Michener, author of “South Pacific” and so many other classics.
Michener writes of Pearl S. Buck as his neighbor in eastern Pennsylvania at the close of World War II. And another well-known neighbor there was Oscar Hammerstein, the famous lyricist.

Michener and Hammerstein help found “Welcome House”

Michener tells how Buck convinced both Hammerstein and himself to help her with an adoption program for Asian-American orphans – born of American military fathers and Southeast Asian mothers.

The three of them founded “Welcome House,” which Michener describes as “a meticulously run orphanage for ‘unadoptable’ Asian-American children,” and Buck funded much of the cost of its operation with her book royalties.


That’s an inspiring story, one that makes “The Child Who Never Grew” worth reading, just to be able to read Michener’s “Foreword.”
But you won’t stop there. And when you begin reading Pearl Buck’s story about her mentally challenged daughter, the insights Michener has provided about his neighbor become even more profound.

Pearl’s daugther

“The Child Who Never Grew” is a mere 107 pages long. And when it begins on page 25 – after the foreword and introduction – Buck writes, “I have been a long time making up my mind to write this story. It is a true one, and that makes it hard to tell. Several reasons have helped me to reach the point this morning, after an hour or so of walking through the winter woods, when I have finally resolved that the time has come for the story to be told. Some of the reasons are in the many letters which I have received over the years from parents with a child like mine. They write to ask me what to do. When I answer, I can only tell them what I have done. They ask two things of me: First, what they shall do for their children, and, second, how shall they bear the sorrow of having such a child?”

Buck explains how she can answer the first question, but the second one is more difficult “…for endurance of inescapable sorrow is something which has to be learned alone,” she writes.
Another reason she says she decided to write “The Child Who Never Grew” was because “I want my child’s life to be of use in her generation. She is one who has never grown mentally beyond her early childhood, therefore she is forever a child, although in years she is old enough now to have been married and to have children of her own – my grandchildren who will never be.”
She continues, “When I knew at last that there could never be an answer, my own resolve shaped into the determination to make meaning out of the meaningless, and so provide the answer, though it was of my own making.”
And Buck’s answer to the meaninglessness is in “The Child Who Never Grew.” It’s well worth the read.

- Carla Offenburger

Korean War Baby comments:

Pearl S. Buck actually had a hereditary disease that caused her first and only daughter to be institutionalized all of her life. Ms. Buck had a hysterectomy to prevent her from having natural children, thus leading her to adopting six children. Perhaps her forced infertility led her to desire even more so to adopt the “unadoptable”.

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