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.

November 9, 2009

Abandoned Princess- Bari Gong Ju 바리 공 주

 "Princess Bari"

This is something the Korean War Baby wrote last year after meeting a special student, she turned out to be a Domestic Adoptee who like an overwhelming majority, was never told that she was adopted. She was a Late Discovery Adoptee who was found by her sixth sister.

The story of the Abandoned Princess is a common theme and an actual Chosun King had seven daughters. In many countries the seventh daughter or son is considered to have spiritual powers and sight. The Shaman priestess in Korea are called Mudang and Bari Gong Ju is the goddess who escorts the spirits of the dead across the river of life, to the realm of the dead. Every child in Korea knows this folk story. Michael Pettid has done an excellent study on

Pari GongJu by Michael Pettid

The Pari kongju muga (Song of the Abandoned Princess) is a narrative shaman's song that until national division in 1945 was propagated orally throughout the Korean peninsula except for the P'yoÆngan, Hwanghae, and Cheju regions. This muga (shaman's song) centers on the life story of the shamanistic deity, Princess Pari,1 who is abandoned at birth by her parents due to her sex but later journeys to the next world to and the life giving medicine that allows their rebirth.

After her successful mission to the sacred realm, the princess transforms into the shamanistic deity who ensures the passage of the dead from this world to the next. Accordingly, this muga fulfills an important function in Korean shamanistic eschatology, ensuring that the spirits of the dead are removed from the secular world and taken to the supernatural realm. 

Aside from the religiosity of this song, it also provides a view of late-ChosoÆn society through the eyes of the female adherents to the shamanistic religion.
Korean Studies, Volume 24. ( 2000 by University of Hawai`i Press. All rights reserved.)

“Epic of the Seventh Daughter”

Written by the Korean War Baby
Based on Princess Bari

“Epic of the Seventh Daughter”
(Part 1)
Come and listen my friends,
To a tale full of sorrow and woe.
It’s the story of a Seventh Daughter,
So innocent and dear, unlucky,
A child born under a curse.

On a cold, windy winter day,
A woman lay groaning in labor,
Moaning in pain as the baby came forth.
What is it?” she cried, “A boy it must be!”
A midwife’s smile faded as she sadly turned away.

Six daughters she had helped deliver,
Sorry…it’s ONLY a girl
Oh, NO!,” moaned the mother, “not another,
Aihi-goo, have I given birth to a witch?
I can’t tell my husband I failed again!

The innocent babe was the seventh you see,
The seventh daughter was considered a curse,
Unlucky or charmed at worse.
How unlucky”, “Such bad Karma”, “What a pity!”
People murmured and whispered at the news. 
Part 2
Like Princess Bari, seventh daughter of a King”,
The legend of Princess Bari tells of a girl,
Who was abandoned, just because she wasn’t a son.
A Chosen dynasty King, Yong-nung Yoju,
Six daughters, he desperately needed a male Heir.

The King and Queen accepted the six daughters,
Then the Queen dreamed that a special child would come.
The seventh came, then the King lost his temper.
Oh, NO!! Not another girl!”
The King said “Throw her away into the forest.”
“Bari Gongju muga” is a Korean Shaman priest’s “Muga”,
Muga is a ritual sacred song.
Bari da literally means “throw-away”,
GongJu” means Princess, so it was called,
The Song of the Abandoned Princess.

(Shaman priests are called Mudang,
Most are woman who sang Muga chants calling up spirits,
They dance and perform a Kut,
Rituals for protection, blessing, and guiding the dead.
Princess Bari, became Matriarch of the Shaman religion.)

Seventh Daughter!? So unlucky,
Destined to be a considered a freak.
Unloved, unwanted, then callously abandoned,
The King disowned her, sent her away.
She was left to die in the woods.

Up above, supernatural beings were very angry,
Twice they saved the special, auspicious child.
Magpies fed her in the woods,
Then the babe was put in a chest and thrown into the sea.
A Turtle saved her and put her on dry land.

An elderly couple found the exposed baby,
Crying, covered in sand, washed up on the beach.
They took pity on her and took her home,
Cleaned her up and dressed her,
Wrapping her in clothes made of bark.

Though poor and destitute, they thanked the heavens.
They had never been blessed with a child,
And with the help of Buddha,
They made her their own, giving her life.
For she was their one and only child.

The young girl grew up, full of kindness and wisdom.
Filled with knowledge from heaven,
She had valor and loyalty to her adoptive parents.
and loved them dearly,
Knowing not she was of different blood.

Then one day Princess Bari discovered the truth,
The King and Queen were her birth parents.
The sixth princess, her sister, found out about her,
Then searched the whole Kingdom.
She met her long lost sister and told her sad news.

The King and Queen had both been stricken deathly ill,
As punishment for abandoning a child of heaven.
The elderly adoptive father had just passed away,
So the adoptive mother urged her to go with her blessings.
Princess Bari and her birth sister rushed to the palace.

At the Palace she found her parents dying.
The wise men claimed that only water
From the Mountain of Three Gods would heal them.
Princess Bari volunteered to undertake the perilous journey,
No one else dared, it was the land of the dead.
The Princess met a Taoist supernatural being,
Who guarded the site of the medicinal waters.
He would give her the cure, only if she earned it.
Many years later, she proved her Filial loyalty,
Working nine years, then bearing seven sons.

She came back from the land of the dead,
To find her parents had both died.
But with the magical waters from the sacred realm,
She raised up her birth parents from death.
Afterwards, two sons were born, one destined for the throne.

Princess Bari was the first shaman to guide,
The spirits of the dead, beyond, to the next world.
The King offered her half of the Kingdom,
But she transcended this profane world.
A heroine, she become a shamanistic deity.
Part 3
(Republic of Korea, 20th century)
Meanwhile the news spread; Mudangs came near,
Offering to take the unwanted seventh daughter.
Raise her as one of their own.
“Shaman priestess, possessing powers of second sight,
Fortune-telling, psychic powers, even healing in her touch.”

But for the mother it just was too much.
A Seventh Daughter!! What misfortune!
What did I do to deserve this?”
She turned aside from the girl,
Ashamed that she had not produced a Son.
The baby lay discarded on the table, covered in blood.
It’s cord was not cut or tied off,
Writhing in shock, cold, crying out!
She was unwashed with cleansing water.
Nor rubbed with purifying salt, laying naked.

Forsaken, unwanted, another daughter had been born,
Rejected by all. The Mid-wife whispered,
I can take care of the problem…
Tell the Father, she was just too weak…and died.”
The mother nodded yes. Someone, came and took ‘it’ away.

They lied to the Birth-Father when he returned,
“It was fate that the baby did not live”,
“Anyway, Seven daughters are very bad luck.”
“Do the rituals, forget the dead”
“Keep on trying, you are sure to get a Son.”
I never knew you, my daughter.
I was away when you came into this world.
So sorry, you only knew life for one day.
Perhaps we will meet in the next life,
Hope you come back again as a son.”

They took her away, far from that place.
Sold to a broker, passed from one to another.
Who is this? Where’s my mother!?”
The baby cried out everyday,
Crying nonstop, broken hearted, all alone.

Loving arms tried to calm her,
But all to no avail.
Cloaked in darkness, like a thick heavy veil.
Unable to express her fear and pain,
She could not yet receive even love.

The KWB wrote this for his student, yet it is for all adoptees who have suffered many abandonments and separations in their early lifetimes. This Thing of Ours-Adoption is a tale of woe and sorrow, the Korean collective deep grief known as “Han”.
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1 comment:

  1. The benefits of shamanic healing are many and varied. Many people claim to feel lighter, freer and happier after only one session. Additionally, as toxic emotional debris is cleared from the energy field, valuable life force energy is released and utilised by the physical and energy bodies, thus greatly improving health, boosting immunity and often preventing disease