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 3, 2009

Post Search Blues

Huangshan, China (YELLOW MOUNTAIN/LANDSCAPE)Stairway to the peak-Image by Chi King via Flickr

The Conference for GOA'L "Crossing Borders" has finished. I was invited to speak at the session on Post Search Panel. One speaker from Germany, a young woman of 25, reported that she had not really been thinking of searching. She reflects some adoptees who do not feel a strong need at a certain time to search for Birth Family. Many adoptees also may feel this way. My friend Frank waited until both his Adoptive Parents had passed away before he begain his search.

The third adoptee, from France or Belgium, sorry I don't remember but he is a great photographer, related in his words a funny ending. "Funny" was not the best word but perhaps his way of dealing with it. Seems the search turned up three women with the same name. The one who might have been most likely to be his mother, due to age, strongly DENIED that she had given up a child for adoption. We just don't know if she is really NOT or doesn't want to reveal the truth. We have to understand that many Birth Mothers may NOT want to make contact in Korea.

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2009/07/137_48629.html

"...Since 1953, South Korea has sent over 160,000 Korean children abroad to 14 Western countries. It is the oldest and largest adoption program in the world, despite South Korea's economic miracle.

Reunion with birth families is a primary reason for adoptees to return to South Korea. From 1995-2005, the ministry reported that 78,000 adoptees came to South Korea to search for their families. Yet only 2.7 percent were reunited."

I think the 2.7 percent or 2,100 plus is very low. Please read the rest of the article.*

Sebastian, moderator and GOA'L staff of the Birth Family Search section, also gave his reasons for not searching. Sebastian's Adoptive family includes three siblings also adopted, also told of how he did not want to search because if he DID find HIS parents he would feel guilty. This I can understand as well, and I admire his attitude in sacrificing or at least putting off his own search. All for one, one for all.


I had a chance to speak, probably too much as usual, giving my history, how long I have been in Korea. I related the newspaper and magazine articles that I had done only after one year in Korea. I too was not eager to search, for reasons I really don't know for sure. It just was not that strong for me, even after seeing the logbook in the museum at Holt Ilsan compound. I got my story in print but never really WANTED or expected any results.


Only in the past seven months have I really considered, "What if SHE responds? Then what?" This made me think over all the possibilities and ponder all sorts of things. I think the most important was the whole process helped me examine myself. That is good for the soul, but also nerve wracking and as some have said, "an emotional rollercoaster".


Well, I got the Post-Search Blues, don't know what to do...Feeling kind of down, waiting for a call that may never come. Yeah, expectations fade away, the post search is very difficult to go through. Now my hope has faded, coming back down to reality...the mind wonders, what was all that about? I must move on, yet as I told the twenty people in our session, "Don't give up, search when you are ready, look at other folks experiences online, examine yourself, most of all don't loose sight of yourself." I reminded everyone that Numero Uno is still the main person we have to focus on.


In some ways even this Goal Conference, which focused on Searching, was perfect timing for my life.

Oh, I had a chance to meet with some of the group of "First Trip Home", 40 adoptees from European countries and the USA. GOA'L is sponsoring them first to the Conference then to various tourist sites, then to the Adoption Agency that they were processed through. They are being guided through the pitfalls and general things to know about Search and Reunions. They will appear on the TV show "The Person I am Longing For". (I think they gave up one me! Which I can understand because every week adoptees are coming back to visit and many look into finding out more information from the Adoption Agencies.

Some have said that Holt and other adoption agencies never expected adoptees to return, but Molly Holt told me and the audience that Harry Holt always said that keeping records was very important for that very reason. In the mid-70's all the records were sent to Eugene, Ore. USA for safe keeping. I can personally testify to this as when I went to the 1990 Holt Heritage Camp I was given copies of myself and my sister Lorelei. They even had negatives of the photos. So anyone born prior to that period DOES have the records in USA, not in Holt Korea. There are facts on both side that need to be learned by all. More on this later.

I will soon post some other historical facts that seem to escape some who blame Holt for 'evil inter-country adoptions'. It has to do with Western versus Eastern minds think about many things. Bet you won't believe it, so I will wait for link to newspaper articles to confirm one of the reasons people should lay off the Holt FAMILY, once and for all.

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3 comments:

  1. “Those truly interested in the Holt adoption history project should read "The Seed From the East," by Bertha Holt (1956). What a lovely and Christian family with noble ideals! Thank you Holts for making it possible for me to come to America!

    See: http://www.uoregon.edu/~adoption/archive/HoltSFE.htm

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nick NicholsonAugust 04, 2009

    Hey Bro, having known you for such a long time, and knowing that this has been on your mind for years, makes each post that I read almost personal in nature, as I know exactly what you are talking about and how you feel.

    Keep up the great work you are doing here!

    Hmmmm, do I smell a "Docu" in the making?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nick,
    Hey, actually I am thinking of a film, with a half-Korean/Brit, American born but recently in Korea. His name is Daniel Henney, does a lot of modeling and three or four movies, most recently "X-Men III". He is sort of a 'pretty boy' type but could be 'me'. I thought he was not "evil or thuggish enough" in X-Men but women here love him, even with him being a Breed. Times have changed, dude.

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