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.

October 12, 2009

Hohleiter Portrays Korea in Eyes of Foreigners

The Korean War Baby is NOT against Korea, Koreans, or Korean Culture. In pointing out the ‘changes going Right’ on the subways and the difficulties in actually doing IT, the KWB is comparing how major changes are not easily done. Cultural differences in HOW one country does anything in the East and in the West MUST be looked at from each perspective.
It is only when Westerners learn to see things from the perspective of the modern rapidly changing Korean culture, with it’s struggles to modernize society, that they can begin to understand how even generational differences in Korea are SO different in attitudes. Like all societies, the SPIN that is put on any given story can influence huge numbers of people. It is the first reports of an event that people remember, NOT the corrections.
The following story is typical of the way that Korean Cyberspace Netizens have in the past and present driven popular opinions against anyone seemingly critical of Korea. One cannot write anything critical of Korea without becoming a target. The German “Celebrity” Vera Hohleiter has published her book, “Sleepless Nights in Seoul” in the Korean Language- to try to “Clear up the misunderstanding” from portions translated from a Korean blogger living in Germany. The KWB doubts that she will survive, her days on KBS2 “Chitchat with Beauties” are numbered…
Hohleiter Portrays Korea in Eyes of Foreigners
By Chung Ah-young
Staff Reporter
”Vera Hohleiter, a German celebrity from the popular KBS2 TV show, ``Chitchat of Beautiful Ladies,'' came under fire for her book ``Sleepless Night in Seoul'' when it was published in Germany in July.
Many Koreans were enraged and felt betrayed as Hohleiter revealed some of the negative sides of Korean society in the book. She has repeatedly said she loves Korea as she shared her experiences with other foreign panel members on the show.
Three months later, she has published her book in Korean to ``clear up the misunderstanding'' for Korean readers. She says that misunderstanding and distortions were added when parts of her book were randomly translated from German to Korean by a Korean blogger who lives in Germany.
``I didn't have any bad intentions. It was my personal experience and very subjective. The book is about what happened to me and there is no made-up story at all. But I don't mean that my opinions about Korea are the absolute truth,'' Hohleiter said in a recent press conference.”

“The 30-year-old German appeared in public for the first time after the controversy and delivered her message clearly and firmly.
She said the book was originally intended to be published for Germans who wanted to learn about Korea because there were only a few books about the country there. After it was released in Germany, the book received positive reviews from readers and critics.
The controversial parts are actually humorous from the perspectives, of Europeans but cultural difference lead to different between the lines interpretations, she said.”

“She portrays Koreans as they appear in the eyes of foreigners. Her tone of the writing doesn't seem to be hostile and is just curious about Korean culture and the way of thinking in the process of adapting herself to the differences.
Of course, the book deals with sensitive subjects. For example, Hohleiter writes that  “Korean girls are obsessed with keeping up with the popular trends of the time and therefore they predominantly wear mini-skirts. But then, when they walk up the stairways in the subway station, they make every possible effort to hide their exposed bodies. I don't understand why they even wear mini-skirts.” She pens that in Europe, fashion is a means of expressing individuality but in Korea fashion focuses on following the trend and means uniformity among peers.”

The Korean War Baby concurs but again it must be understood that the clash of cultures is what makes Korean girls in ‘mini-skirts’ different from Westerners wearing mini-skirts. It is in the mind of the woman that is the difference. To a Westerner, a mini-skirted Korean girl trying to put a small bag or purse behind her to ‘cover up’ doesn’t make sense. But to Koreans it is her attempt to show that she is ‘still a nice girl’ and not a professional. Western minds interpret from our own mindset, the Western Male thinks, “Look at that! She must be…….” Koreans think instead, “Oh, she has the latest fashion”.
No, Ms. Hohleiter’s book may hurt her more than help her. TIK-This is Korea, Westerners may only praise, never criticize in any way. It was nice to chitchat with her, until she opened up just a bit too much.

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