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.

December 23, 2009

Shades of Gray/Koreanness

From White to Black-Greyscale
Shades of Gray

The Korean War Baby, has read the excellent study from Evan B. Donaldson’s Adoption Institute called "Beyond Culture Camp". It has to do with the questions many have looked at concerning the identity issue of Koreanness.

The KWB found this at the blogger Ask a Korean What makes a person Korean?”

“How to Measure One’s Koreanness?
Then is there any way to determine if someone is Korean? The most obvious first step is whether someone considers his/herself to be a Korean. After all, one cannot be forced into a group identity – group identity is only a part of self-identity, and no one can control the way you regard yourself.

25% Korean Miss Universe
(Here is an interesting example of forced-upon group identity: In 1997, Miss Universe was Brook Lee, a quarter Korean. Her grandfather was a Korean who immigrated to Hawaii. The Korean media went nuts when Lee won Miss Universe – Look, world’s most beautiful woman has some Korean in her! However, all this attention from Korea bewildered Lee, who said until she was mobbed by Korean media, she did not really consider herself Korean.)

But does subjective acceptance of group identity suffice? It cannot. There have to be some objective barometers because purely subjective measures would be ludicrous. One who is be born outside of Korea from non-Korean parents, has never visited Korea, does not know one word in Korean, dislikes all Korean food, cannot handle even one shot of soju, etc., cannot possibly become Korean by simply believing oneself to be a Korean.

In fact, objective factors, if numerous enough, can overwhelm the importance of subject acceptance. It would be plain stupid if someone who is born and raised in Korea to Korean parents, speaks only Korean and has never left Korea suddenly claim he is no longer Korean.

From this, we can extract a unified theory of Koreanness: Koreanness is about how much, and how well, you buy into the idea of Korean group identity.”

The KWB thinks Ask a Korean has very good points, as for how much and how well you buy into the idea of Korean Group identity must be looked at from many levels. Korean Media has always grabbed hold of “Famous Korean celebrities” syndrome where anyone who has 25% (Grandparent) Korean is claimed by the media as “KOREAN”.
However, the public in Korea has some very interesting views on “What is a REAL KOREAN”. The KWB has heard from thousands of students, yes, at least a couple of thousand, on this issue. He has taught at two major universities, three Middle Schools, plus business classes, Shinsegae Department Culture Centers, and Private classes for over 14 years in Seoul, Korea.
In EVERY case the issue of being a Korean War Baby and IP Yang In or 입양인 comes up. At one middle school, which must remain unnamed, over 2/3 of the students had lived abroad 3 years or more. They had studied at private or public schools in English speaking countries or in International Schools.
The remaining 1/3 of students told the KWB several times that those who had lived OUTSIDE Korea for more than two years “Were NOT Korean anymore! When he questioned them further, they implied that living outside the country that long put them OUTSIDE the “WE” or “우리" concept. They were not in the group of Real Koreans in their jealous mindsets.

Please consider this chart:

What shade of Korean-ness are You?

Percentage of Korean-ness
Full-Blooded Real Korean-Both parents Korean/live in Korea (N or S) entire life/speak and write in Hangul/know history, culture, food,/ served in military (for males)/studied abroad less than 2 years
M/F both Korean/Studied abroad MORE than 2 years and speak English very well
1. Generation- Korean Adult Emigrants to Foreign country.
1.5 Generation-2 Korean Parents Emigrated to another country when under 18 yrs. old.
2.0 Generation-2 Korean Parents but BORN a CITIZEN of Foreign Country. (‘Korean-American’) Speak and write Korean at low level. Does not know Culture/history/practices very well.
Bi-Racial/Bi-Cultural- One parent Korean other is NOT; Lives in Korea. Culture/language/history knowledge high level.
Bi-Racial/Bi-Cultural- One parent Korean other is NOT; Lives in foreign country with low to moderate levels of Cultural/language/history ability.
Full-Blooded Korean Adoptee-Older child 3 and up, remembers some of Korean life: has lost most language/cultural understanding/etc.
Baby or Very young Adoptee- has None or only ‘learned knowledge’ of being Korean. Culture Camps, self study, trips to motherland, etc.
Some Full-Blooded Korean Adoptees are also Bi-Cultural as they are adopted by Korean living abroad as Residents or Citizens. Some are adopted by Korean Adoptees married to foreigners. Level of understanding is based on learned or experienced culture.
Mixed-Blood Korean Adoptee- From 25 to 50% Korean genetic ancestry; adopted into Foreign family (usually Caucasian); only learned knowledge of being Korean, or now living in motherland to continue ‘turning Korean’.
Low Level of Blood Quantum- Person with one Great- Grandparent or 12.5% Korean Ancestry. Very low level of understanding of Korean Culture/language/history/etc.
WHEW, did he miss anyone? Send your thoughts or comments, links, articles, etc. to the
The terms dongpo (동포) or gyopo (교포) in Korean refers to people of ethnic Korean ancestry who have lived the majority of their lives outside Korea. It can also mean simply any Korean who lives outside Korea. Korean DongPo or Gyopo


  1. I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
    And you et an account on Twitter?

  2. Sure you may quote me, but note my sources. I try to have at least 2 or 3 different sources for every fact. I am constantly updating, to keep as Balanced as possible.