THIS THING OF OURS-ADOPTION
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 24, 2009
I grew up in Los Angeles area, at first in mostly 'white suburan' areas then in mixed neighborhoods. I was always mistaken for a 'Mestizo' (Spanish mixed-blood) and some even asked "what Native American tribe do you belong to", and I did not know. I would give 'my story' of adoption from Korean, no not Japanese, or Chinese, the country in-between.
My life has been quite unusual, even weird but exciting. I have done many jobs, from dish washing, carpentry, to acting in B-movies in the Philippines, and for the last 12 years taught English to my mother's people. I tried to learn Korean, and thought since I left at five years old it would 'magically' come back to me. Alas, I gave up trying to learn more than survival phrases after most Koreans looked shocked that the foreign guy is trying to speak "their language".
Who am I? I am proud to be an American by naturalization, served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam, consider myself a 'compassionate Republican'. Even after 14 years of living in Korea, I know that my identity as a Korean is very limited. Korean people do not consider me, well, to be blunt, a "real Korean".
Since 1995 I have lived here in Seoul, Republic of Korea, a land torn in two by war. I was only going to stay a year but couldn't leave for many reasons. I got involved with the beginnings of an adoptee's group started by Ami Nafzger and a group of fellow adoptees from Europe and the Americas.
Global Oversea's Adoptee's Link just celebrated in 2008 their tenth anniversary of helping adoptees when they come to their motherland in search of identity with Korea and some to look into searching for their birth family. I was one of the "founding members" yet did nothing more than come to all the meetings. Ami and others did most of the work to bring recognition from the Korean government.
I married a Korean woman in 2005, a 'public servant' who carries a real revolver, (I am not supposed to tell you she is a Lieutenant in the National Police Force...Oops). I missed several GOA'L conventions and monthly meetings because we lived 2 hours out of Seoul. I thought I am now just too old for the mostly 20's to 30's generation of adoptees coming here.
"Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in." Al Pacino says in The God-Father II. Last year, I met a Domestic Korean Adoptee who recently discovered late in life that she had been adopted. It was quite a shock to her when her natural sister called her, after finding paperwork of her being given away secretly. I discovered that there is a Korean folk story of "The Abandoned Princess-Bari Gong Ju" who was literally thrown away by a Chosen King because she was an unlucky 7th daughter. She was found by a childless old couple and raised up, to be found herself by her birth sister taken back to the palace and save her father and mother. Every child in Korea has heard this story.
I began to search the internet on adoption, abortion, domestic and overseas adoption, open and closed adoptions, etc. The more I studied the more complex this thing of ours-adoption became to me. So much information, what could I do with it? I read numerous 'adoptee's blogs' both Pro and Con on adoption, and wondered, "What do I do with all this knowledge...I don't know how to 'blog'!"
Then I came across "Your Blood is My Blood" (first post) a new blog done by a "Spoken Word artist", a young American woman who is a domestic adoptee herself. Jessenia is so fresh, outspoken, sure of herself, speaks out of her heart, and just down right 'on target', she blew my doors off. Jessenia has been changing some lives forever as she documents her search and her life's journey, "born in her womb, raised by the streets".
It was her title, Your Blood is My Blood that got my attention first. I had been learning how the new science of genetics has been able to distinguish the differences of ethnic groups. I had come to the discovery that my own blood, my genetic makeup has BOTH the complete DNA of my birth mother and father. Different genes are 'turned on or off' but the DNA "Markers" are present for all our ancestors and this is how they can trace backwards to 'common ancestors'. It is very complex yet I knew this one fact: The blood (genes) of my Korean natural/birth mother IS MY BLOOD. The blood of all mankind is related back to two, the scientist even call them Adam and Eve.
I listened to Jessenia's video Day One...My Journey, I'm Ready as she bravely launched her search. WOW, if she could do this, so could I. So I plunged into the fray!!! Jessenia is presently in Spain, the country that made the Philippines it's "colony" for 350 years, and I am visiting my old (very old) friends, meeting new friends, and wondering what will be in my future. Go check out this fresh, meaningful "voice of the adoptee's" 'cause she be doing it very well, you will be diggin' what she's saying. Her's is just another voice from "This Thing of Ours-Adoption". Jessenia is MY SISTER in the blogosphere and encouraged me to put out my own voice.
The Korean War Baby, 'we be blogging' from the "streets of passion"-Manila, Philippines. A shout out to all of Jessenia's friends who also do some amazing blogs! Hey, if you are looking into This Thing of Ours-Adoption, read and read, you will find your own path to healing and understanding. Keep on truckin'!!