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.


November 13, 2009

Abandoned Princess-Bari GongJu 바리 공주

Abandoned Princess-Bari Gong Ju
Part 4

The Korean War Baby presents parts 4 of a domestic adoptee’s story of abandonment and late discovery of her adoption. She was adopted secretly as 90% of Korean domestic adoptees are done. It is still embarrassing and even shameful to admit that a couple cannot have a natural child. In the 1950’s it was actually a law that only children in “relative adoptions” within the extended family could adopted.

Overseas Adopted Koreans (OAK) have a counter showing 87,479 (1939-2007) official domestic adoptions, however there are an estimated  Double that number of Private Civil adoptions

These are not in government records, dating from the post WW2 days of USFK just after the Liberation of Korea from the Japanese Empire’s surrender. The Dutch diplomat’s relinquishment of their nine year old Korean daughter shocked many here, here, Time Magazine. It was a private civil adoption, and these unfortunately continue to this day. If Korea signs the Hague Conventions these will stop.
Here is the fictional story, based on real life.



“Epic of The Seventh Daughter”
-Part 4-
Days turned to weeks, a couple of months.
Then the little one was hustled again,
Again she was going away.
For a new Mom and Dad awaited,
Longing for the gift from heaven.

Placed in a loving home, she knew another father.
He adopted her, ‘Took her by his own Choice’.
Ad Optare means in Latin-‘to Take/Add by Choice’.
I receive you, my daughter,
I now call you my own.

He was getting on in years,
His new bride was young and strong.
Though they loved each other,
They couldn’t produce a child from their union.
They desired their own family.

The father had been widowed several years before,
Left with 2 sons and some daughters.
He then had met a younger woman,
Who had lost her own father.
Taken to the North, during the cruel Korean war.

Though separated by many years,
Their love had grown from friendship to deep love.
They married, against family and social taboos.
Secretly they made inquiries to a Joong Mae Jaengi,
With a matchmaker who arraigned marriage and such.

The Joong Mae promised to ask around,
A son do you seek?” she asked.
Sons are very rare, girls are very common.
It matters not, a girl is fine, yes that would do.
But can we keep it discreet?”

The crafty woman came forth with a plan,
She had much experience with these matters.
To keep the adoption a secret,
A few things could be done.
When a child was found, the plan would unfold.

The wife would pretend to be expecting.
She could travel away to her parent’s hometown.
After announcing the pregnancy,
The wife would wear a ‘special pillow’.
The hospital staff would gladly take a bribe.

One day soon thereafter,
News reached the ears of the matchmaker.
A poor, frail girl had been found,
A Cloud of despair over it’s life,
She was wounded in spirit and soul.

The agent did not tell them one small thing,
That she was a Seventh daughter,
Despised and forsaken, A Curse to many.
Thrown Away by her own flesh and blood,
She would be taken in love, by those who were not.

When the tiny girl child arrived,
She was crying out loudly, given away, again.
The new father and mother rejoiced,
She has broken our bad fortune,
I shall call her Lucky!”

And so little by little the fragile girl grew,
Becoming strong in body and mind,
Finally, finding peace and comfort.
She was an only child, or so she thought.
Never thought it strange, she looked kind’a different.

Lucky blossomed into a young woman,
Then Fate struck a mortal blow.
Her father was under such stress,
His sons had brought much duress.
The family business became a battleground.

The sons strutted around in their pride,
Sitting in their ‘reserved special’ Pews,
Elders of standing in their church.
But in secret they grew in greed,
Scheming to grab as much as they could.

The Sons had never liked their stepmother.
Younger even than they,
Never could accept her or the ‘stepsister’.
They plotted to control most of the business.
Fighting to cut off all their support.

Suddenly, without warning, a stroke hit the Father,
Causing such harm in his mind,
His recent memories were unrecalled.
He remembered his wife but not his daughter.
Lucky had lost a father, again.

His illness continued for three long years.
Mother and daughter struggled together,
Bonded together in life’s cruel dealings.
Lucky stayed by his side,
Lovingly she cared for him, but he knew her not.
****************
Written by the Korean War Baby.

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