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 2, 2009

Watch Your Step-Update

Korean War Baby has more photos on the Changes on Korea’s Subways AND everywhere now it seems. Refer to my earlier post:
 http://www.koreanwarbaby.com/2009/09/watch-your-step-seoul-wants-you-walking.html
Woo Chook Bo Hyang 우측 보 행 “Right-side Walk” or “Walk to the Right”
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Sign says “Walk on/towards the Right”
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 Quite a variety of different posters and markings.
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 One AhJoShi (uncle) and two AhJuMahs (aunties) scrap off ‘foot prints’ helping to guide “Down” escalator.
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The small printed Arrow helps to guide the RIGHT escalator, but what is this sign pointing to is beyond me. Every station seems to have developed their own way of informing the public, making their own ‘arrows’, ‘Don’t go here’ and signs. Some signs are so small, others are quite adequate, but no central planning.

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Posters are everywhere but few have read them. Many students over the past few weeks are completely unaware of the changes, even if they take the subway daily.

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Even on the stairs leading up out of the subway posters and signs on the steps, at the base of the steps TRY to remind folks to “Walk On the Right Side”. Well, as they say “How’s that working?”
SomeGetIt
These people seem to get it, almost following the yellow divider line.
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Oops, when there is space “take it all” becomes the rule. When people want to go UP they have to fight their way as usual and most head up the LEFT side.
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Confucius saying, “water flows over, around, under, through whatever is in the middle of the stream”. Here the people follow instinct and 88 years of LEFT SIDE Walking and go on the LEFT side AND the RIGHT side. Hard to change old habits.
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Many subway escalators are STILL set on the LEFT SIDE, further confusing those who have read the posters.
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This one has been changed but in five days several times a day, the KWB sees folks ‘almost’ walk right left into the WRONG WAY, and when no traffic is coming from the other direction, Koreans widen out and TAKE IT ALL.
Will it work? This grand attempt to ‘follow’ international law and Walk the same way they Drive? Stay tuned to KWB.

Korean War Baby Comments:
So what is the big deal? Why is this important or related to the issue of “This Thing of Ours-Adoption”? It goes to the heart of how Korean people think, how they follow traditions, the “WE, OUR” thinking that Westerners are NOT used to.
In Jane Jeong Trenka’s new book  Fugitive Visions , in the first chapter, pg. 15, she comments on the Korean way of identity, the “Our” sense of for example, “Koreans say not ‘Korea’, ‘Korean Language’, or ‘my mother’-but ‘Our Country,’ ‘our Language’, and ‘our mother’.”
‘Our classmate’ in my Shinsegae Cultural Center classes must be current not former students, for they are no longer part of ‘Our’.
Uri (우리) we, our and the feelings of ‘Jeong’ 정 or ‘togetherness’ are lost to Korean Adoptees. For those who have lived in Korea, seeking and those lucky few who have made contact with Birth/Natural/Bio family, one wonders if they are really accepted back into the fold. Most Koreans do NOT consider the Koreans living outside of ‘Our Country’ to still be Korean. Even 1.5 or 2nd generation immigrants (Kyopo) fall into this category, Korean adoptees for certain, Chinese-Koreans, Japanese-Koreans. There are 6.8 million living in OTHER lands, and they are no longer part of the “OUR”. Students have told the KWB that those students who have studied or lived more than three years are no longer “really Korean anymore”.
Some seem to feel that “We/Our” sense, at least from their stories, some others have found it too difficult with ‘Korean Language and culture lost’. The KWB knows that he will NEVER be truly part of the “WE”, only a half-breed Tuigi, to be pitied and put up with, an English teacher taken after all the “White ones” but before “persons of color” or fellow full-blooded Korean Adoptees.
This is the nature of the English teaching industry. White teachers from EU countries who can only speak with heavy accents are preferred to Kyopo (emigrates) or Korean Adoptees. In this the KWB is fortunate that he can pass for ‘maybe foreigner’. There are always some students who quit classes after the KWB reveals to them his mother’s Korean heritage. (He usually tell them only after the two week deadline to get a refund on changing the class. hehehe)
That is why all stories have validity, for there is no “Right, correct, ALL” in this complex issue, “This Thing of Ours-Adoption”.

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