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 30, 2009

They’re Gonna Put Me in a Movie”

“Is that a United States Marine tattoo?”

Late in November, 1975, I had just arrived in the Philippines with a good friend of mine, John Silao, who was my college roommate. I had gotten discharged from the apocalypse now redux wallpaperMarines because it just seemed to me that they wanted everyone who had served in ‘Nam out. The ‘Old Corps’ was cutting down in size and crusty ‘old salts’ were welcomed to leave. The New Corps wanted new blood, men and women who they could mold, troops who did not have the ‘bad habits’ learned in the war.

Our plan was to stay for a year, but John soon realized that he should go back to USA and finish his studies in Photography in order to ‘make it’ in his homeland. I was determined to find a way to make money and stay for a while. A cousin of John told me about the movie Apocalypse Now, a Vietnam War movie was casting extras. I thought that sounded like a great thing to do so I went with him to the place they were signing up extras.

In 1975, early in April, the communists had finally captured Saigon. I was in college at Mount San Antonio, not really knowing what I was doing, smoking a lot of marijuana and without direction. I watched the news and felt terrible that the United States had abandoned the Vietnamese people. I had read and seen the news articles about the T039813A Vietnamese Boat People who were escaping everyday from communist tyranny, many subjected to attacks by pirates. The pirates would board their ships, which were usually overcrowded and rob, rape, terrorize, those who had managed to escape from their land. Many made their way to Thailand, some of them reached Hong Kong, others were picked up by merchant ships and taken to the Philippines.

John’s cousin took me to the casting office where I signed up as an extra. The casting director noticed my tattoo, the U.S. Marine Corps emblem on my right forearm. His name was Ken MetcaRescueTeamHippielfe and he was the local casting director who had a lot of experience in film work in the Philippines. Ken asked me, “Is that a U.S. Marine tattoo?” I answered, “yes sir, it is”, well, he invited me into his office. Ken found out that I had served with 1st Recon Battalion, in-country Vietnam. Ten minutes later he took me to see the director Francis Coppola, who was very excited to meet me. He offered me the job of an unofficial military adviser, working as an assistant in the casting department directly under Ken Metcalf. I would handle all the foreign extras, teaching them how to act like soldiers, look like soldiers.

Ken Metcalfe, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0582465/ who became like a mentor to me, took me back to his office asked me when I could start, I told him I could start today. “Oh, by the way I asked, how much do I get?” I was absolutely shocked when he told me $100.00…per day, six days a week! He wanted me to start right now helping him to sort out the hundreds who had come to sign up as extras. So I grabbed a clipboard, a stack of applications, and a loud hailer and went outside to take care of the mob outside.

I found that the loud speaker of the hailer did not work very well so I just raise my voice, speaking like a drill instructor. “Yoo…Listen UP! May I have your attention?” Some wiseass called out, “Who the fuck are you?” Keeping my cool, I responded with, “I am the One who gives YOU the WORD. The WORD from the Production, the WORD that YOU need to know if you want to work…NOW listen up, here is THE WORD.

I then asked for anyone with the U.S. military experience to come forward and a dozen men came forward. One was to become a great friend and go on to be quite well known, R. Lee Ermey, a former US Marine Drill Instructor and combat vet. Ermey and I would work together in "Boys of Company C" directed by Sid Fury (who also directed "Purple Hearts"). I then asked them to be my assistants, promising them some extra pay, and very soon all the people had filled out forms. Thus began my work with the movie which was to greatly affect my life for the better.

The next fourteen months I worked as the Set Production Assistant, managing not only the foreign extras but all extras, Filipino, Vietnamese, and the Ifugao tribe, while on the set. I worked under 2nd Assistant Director Larry Franco, who was the main 2nd AD under 1st Assistant Director Jerry Zeismer.

1 comment:

  1. At least one of us became a millionaire......

    ReplyDelete

Skype