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.


October 9, 2009

In South Korea, an Effort to Defend Unwed Mothers - NYTimes.com

 image Mok Kyong-wha, with her son, said that she broke up with her boyfriend while she was pregnant and refused when he asked her to have an abortion.

In South Korea, an Effort to Defend Unwed Mothers - NYTimes.com
“SEOUL, South Korea — Four years ago, when she found that she was pregnant by her former boyfriend, Choi Hyong-sook considered abortion. But after she saw the little blip of her baby’s heartbeat on ultrasound images, she could not go through with it.
As her pregnancy advanced, she confided in her elder brother. His reaction would sound familiar to unwed mothers in South Korea. She said he tried to drag her to an abortion clinic. Later, she said, he pressed her to give the child up for adoption.

“My brother said: ‘How can you be so selfish? You can’t do this to our parents,’ ” said Ms. Choi, 37, a hairdresser in Seoul. “But when the adoption agency took my baby away, I felt as if I had thrown him into the trash. It felt as if the earth had stopped turning. I persuaded them to let me reclaim my baby after five days.”

Presently, Korean Law allows Natural/Birth mothers up to give up their child before birth. Some want more time for thinking about it,  advocating up to 60 days to change their mind and keep the her child. For more on recent bill being drafted go adoption law revision (TRACK). The KWB supports helping to persuade the Korean people and government to support any woman who wants to raise her child.

This article shows the LACK of support by Family, Society, and Government that a woman faces, is she decides to NOT Abort, or NOT give up for Adoption.


“Now, Ms. Choi and other women in her situation are trying to set up the country’s first unwed mothers association to defend their right to raise their own children. It is a small but unusual first step in a society that ostracizes unmarried mothers to such an extent that Koreans often describe things as outrageous by comparing them to “an unmarried woman seeking an excuse to give birth.”
Slideshow of Single Parenting in Koreaimage






The KWB had heard a rumor of this outrageous saying but even his students were too embarrassed to explain or talk about this. His Korean ‘public servant wife (who carries a pistol)’, explained it a year ago. This was after it was learned that none of the KWB In-laws knew that he was HALF-KOREAN and (Horrors) ADOPTED!!!

After 3 years of marriage one of the wife’s cousins saw a picture on the computer screen of the KWB, and asked, “Who is THAT? Your student?” The KWB was very surprised, no shocked to learn further that the cousin did not know about the KWB being being given up by his Korean mother. Furthermore, it was discovered that the cousin’s wife WAS ADOPTED after her parents were killed, by a domestic adoption!! You see Adoption and being a Bastard are not Topics of discussion in Korean Society.

“Yet each year, social pressure drives thousands of unmarried women to choose between abortion, which is illegal but rampant, and adoption, which is considered socially shameful but is encouraged by the government. The few women who decide to raise a child alone risk a life of poverty and disgrace.”

In their campaign, Ms. Choi and the other women have attracted unusual allies. Korean-born adoptees and their foreign families have been returning here in recent years to speak out for the women…One such supporter, Richard Boas, an ophthalmologist from Connecticut who adopted a Korean girl in 1988, said he was helping other Americans adopt foreign children when he visited a social service agency in South Korea in 2006 and began rethinking his “rescue and savior mentality.”

“I looked around and asked myself why these mothers were all giving up their kids,” Dr. Boas said.
He started the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network, which advocates for better welfare services from the state.

“What we see in South Korea today is discrimination against natural mothers and favoring of adoption at the government level,” said Jane Jeong Trenka, 37, a Korean-born adoptee who grew up in Minnesota and now leads Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea, one of two groups organized by Korean adoptees who have returned to their homeland to advocate for the rights of adoptees and unwed mothers.

The Korean War Baby finds himself in a dilemma, No not a dilemma but rather a Balanced Roadmap. The KWB  believes in seeking, imploring, begging, demanding, urging, embarrassing, preaching, etc. There can be a Middle Road way to advocate perhaps this:
  • for more help from the Korean Government and Media  for unwed mothers;
  • Domestic adoptions by Koreans;
  • Korean Government’s steps to ratify the Hague Convention on Adoption
  • Adoptions by Ethnic Koreans living in other countries; Special Needs adoptions to all Koreans (If they want them) Then to OTHERS.
  • Finally, for those who are NOT kept by their mothers; not adopted by “Their People”; THEN to Other Prospective Adoptive Parents of nationalities that are signatories of the Hague Convention.
The Reality is that Korean women are under incredible pressure to do the easy thing, Abort or give up for adoption. Korean society is slowly changing, but it will take time to bring more openness, keeping open many different options, while pushing for viable change. Care must be taken to persuade rather than ‘brow beat’, support instead of trying to stop. Being FOR some things not only AGAINST all- in “This Thing of Ours-Adoption”.

Balanced approach, is it possible? What are your thoughts?
Coming: Does the KWB hate women who have an abortion?


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