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.


January 13, 2010

Mu Films-Deann Borshay Liem


Mu Films produces and distributes documentaries about social, political and cultural issues in Korea and America today.

About Deann Borshay Liem

Deann Borshay Liem is an amazing woman, Korean Adoptee, successful film producer/director/writer. Check out her films, order a DVD, if you are an Adoptee or any person of “This Thing of Ours-Adoption”.

Deann Borshay Liem has over twenty years experience working in development, production and distribution of educational and public television programming. She was Producer/Director/Writer for the Emmy Award-nominated documentary, First Person Plural (Sundance, 2000; Grand Jury Award, Best Bay Area Documentary, San Francisco Intl. Film Festival), and Co-Executive Producer for Spencer Nakasako's Kelly Loves Tony (PBS, 1998) and AKA Don Bonus (PBS, 1996, Emmy Award). She served as Co-Producer for Marianne Teleki's Special Circumstances which follows Chilean exile, Hector Salgado, as he attempts to reconcile with former interrogators and torturers in Chile.

She is the former Director of the National Asian American Telecommunications Association (NAATA) where she supervised the development, distribution and broadcast of new films for public television and worked with Congress to support minority representation in public media. Deann is a recipient of a Rockefeller Film/Video Fellowship for her new feature-length documentary, Precious Objects of Desire, which is currently in production.

MuFilms_Buy_DVD

In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee is a feature-length documentary that serves as a  follow-up to Deann Borshay Liem’s earlier film, First Person Plural. In the film, imageshe searches for her “double” – a girl named Cha Jung Hee – in an attempt to resolve a case of mistaken identity that took place when she was adopted by an American family in 1966. The search for Cha Jung Hee serves as a springboard for exploring complex ethical and socio/political questions involving international transracial adoptions, and the impact these issues have on individuals and families. Produced in association with the Katahdin Foundation, and co-produced by Charlotte Lagarde, the film is currently in production.
 
Filmmaker’s Statement
Cha Jung Hee was a fellow orphan at the Sun Duck Orphanage in South Korea in the 1960s.  She and I had nothing in common and I did not know her personally.  And yet, at age 8, just before I was sent to the U.S. to be adopted by the Borshay family in California, my identity was switched with hers without anyone’s knowledge.  I was given Cha Jung Hee’s name, birth date and family history and told to keep the switch a secret. 

Simultaneously, through a bureaucratic sleight of hand, my previous identity was completely erased. For years, Cha Jung Hee was, paradoxically, both a stranger and also my official identity – a persona unknown, but always present, defining my life. In In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee, I search for Cha Jung Hee to finally put her erstwhile existence to rest by meeting her in real life and finding out how she has fared.

In the course of searching for Cha Jung Hee, I meet and interview a diverse selection of Korean orphans and adoptees, each with their own quests and extraordinary stories to tell.  A biracial Korean-Black war orphan, shunned by Korean society, who as an adult meets potential biological siblings; twins adopted and raised in France, who speak only the French language, on their way “home” to Korea to visit their birth mother; an orphan from the North who was sent with several thousand Korean War orphans to Romania who recalls the painful post-war years and what it was like to grow up in a boarding school in Eastern Europe; and many others.

These stories are contextualized within a history of adoptions from Korea starting with the Korean War.  Together, they illuminate how adoptions from Korea are closely associated with U.S. military involvement on the Korean peninsula, the prosperity and optimism of American society following World War II, and Cold War politics, all of which have led South Korea to become the number one “exporter,” and the U.S. the largest “importer,” of adopted children in the world.



“First Person Plural”
firstpersonplural_480 


In 1966, Deann Borshay Liem was adopted by an American family and was sent from Korea to her new home. Growing up in California, the memory of her birth family was nearly obliterated until recurring dreams lead Deann to discover the truth: her Korean mother was very much alive. Bravely uniting her biological and adoptive families, Deann's heartfelt journey makes First Person Plural a poignant essay on family, loss, and the reconciling of two identities.

First Person Plural was broadcast nationally on PBS in December, 2000, through the award-winning documentary series, Point of View (POV). We invite you to explore this site for in-depth information about the program.


 Mother&Daughter DeannBorshay


Deann was eight years old when she was sent to America. She bravely brought both her biological and adoptive families together.

Deann also has some excellent resource material and links under “First Person Plural” sub-links “Adoption History”, “Resources”, etc. Watch for her next film Precious Objects of Desire, which is currently in production.


3 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this. The premiere of Deann's new film, now entitled In The Matter of Cha Jung Hee will be at the San Francisco Intl. Asian American Film Festival March 12 at 6:45. I hope you can join us.
    Cheers,
    Charlotte Lagarde
    Co-producer

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a wonderful post! You don't come across information nor ..at all..videos that often. How fascinating her life..and yet I know many adoptees can relate some. Thanks for the link and your wonderful posts!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This movie was AMAZING! You have to see it 1) to see another side of Korean adoption, 2) to support a Korean adoptee, and 3) to have an enjoyable experience.

    ReplyDelete

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