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 4, 2010

New citizens, new challenges - INSIDE JoongAng Daily

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Children from multiethnic families participate in an ice festival organized by SK Telecom at Walkerhill Hotel in Gwangjin-gu last month. [NEWSIS]
New citizens, new challenges - INSIDE JoongAng Daily
[Embracing Diversity] ‘The country has had to shift from its existing social paradigm of racial homogeneity, to allow for cultural diversity.’ - Han Geon-su
January 04, 2010
“Koreans have long believed themselves to be of “pure blood… But there is no doubt that Koreans’ attachment to bloodlines is no longer in sync with the present.
Ministry of Public Administration and Security, one out of every 10 marriages in Korea was an international marriage in 2008. The figure in rural areas, however, was four out of every 10 marriages. So it comes as no surprise that these so-called “multicultural” families - Korean nationals (generally male), their foreign spouses and their children - make up 1.7 percent of all Korean households today.
“The change has come about as Korea’s status in the world has changed. Korea was once a country that exported labor, but since the 1980s, it’s become a country that imports labor,” says Han Geon-su, a cultural anthropology professor at Kangwon National University. “This has forced the country to shift away from its existing social paradigm, which is based on racial, national and cultural homogeneity, to allow for cultural diversity.”
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University of Washington head football Steve Sarksian is introduced at a press conference on Monday, December 9, 2008 in the Don James Center at Husky Stadium in Seattle.  With wife Stephanie daughters Ashley and Taylor and son BradyThe KWB points out another ‘multiethnic family’ article that  show how the country is changing, whether it likes it or not. Certainly though, it will be a slow process. If you, reading this humble blog, are a Korean Adoptee, Domestic or Overseas/ICA/InterNational or whatever; You need to know what was happening during the time in Korean society, when YOU were born.
Some have disparaged the fact that by being adopted OUT of79394313  Korea that “adoption” itself is an EVIL in of its self.  Cries of ‘kidnapped for child-laundering’ some claim, as though every child sent overseas for adoption were ‘robbed of their culture and sold to White Parents’. Oh, my!! They were forced to live in communities where they ‘stood out as the only Asian’. Each adoptee had to 'sort out' their own Self-identity, hopefully with supporting Adoptive Parents and family. It seems that those who were the only adoptee in a family, and those who lived in EU countries faired worse than others in multiple adoptees in a blended family. The acceptance of the society one wind up in greatly effected their development of Identity, self-esteem, the question of "Who AM I?"


While recent studies Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute and Tobias Hubinette's study on Sweden, certainly show that in fact Korean Adoptees DO face prejudice, school room teasing, identity crisis and confusion, curiosity, endless questions about "what are you"...WELL, we must go back to the beginning.
 
What reasons were children and babies given up? This is the crucial question that has changed over the years as Korea went from Post-War economy to become one of the 'Tigers of Asia'. Some use the argument, "Korea is a Developing nation and SHOULD take care of its children". This implies that Korean people, because they are now doing so well economically, can/should/must/really ought to/etc. stop 'exporting their children to the world'. 

This is a MOOT argument, the KWB portends for discussion and to be analyzed from the ROOT of the Problems. Children are NOT being sent away for economic reasons. PERIOD, that is not the cause, so don't even bring it up...do you think you will shame people into letting their daughters keep illegitimate babies? What IS working is that more and more social standards are changing and women ARE increasingly KEEPING their babies, DESPITE family, society, and lack of support. Over 31.7% of Unwed mothers are keeping their children, according to reports from Korean Women's Development Institute (KWDI). See the recent post KUMSN 
also.

'Moving forward'   



Were there cases of abuse, yes, we know of a number of cases. One famous KAD was ‘sold’ by her relative without her birth parents knowledge. Cases of wrong birthdates or two dates can happen because if one was “Abandoned” then they had to estimate your age. Some cases parents tried to get children back but they had been sent overseas. The KWB would love to have some figures of the estimate of these cases. TRACK has documented six cases and there are perhaps many more. (If you have accurate numbers please contact the KWB.)
Evan B. Donaldson’s Adoption Institute’s recent survey here certainly shows that many adoptees struggled with their ‘Non White
identity’ as young children, wishing they were White like their peers. But as they enter teenage then university, most adoptees begin to experience more understanding of their Asianness. It takes effort to ‘Beyond Culture Camp’ but not all Adoptees feel the need.
Some may not want to search for birth parents, fearing alienation or hurt to their Adoptive Family. Some ARE satisfied with Culture Camp, eating Korean food, learning the language, studying history, visiting Korea once or more, working as a English teacher, etc. The more one learns the more one “feels” their Ethnic Identity. Or so one hope and thinks.
Many ‘Real Korean people’ have an embarrassed or ashamed feeling towards us, some just wish we would not be coming back. Yes, SOME mothers are wanting to have reunion with the child they relinquished/gave up for adoption. Who has not heard of the programs on television and films plots of returning famous Adoptees and those 75,000 Adoptees who have made at least one trip back.
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Yet there will always be limitation, as the KWB post shadesOfKoreanness points out. Our level of being a “Real Korean” is dependant on many factors. As Korea evolves and faces the realities of “NO LONGER BEING HOMOGENOUS”, then the people of our motherland perhaps ONE DAY, Koreans can accept Overseas Adoptees as “Real Koreans” as well. It will probably not happen in the Korean War Baby’s time (he IS and Old Guy)…but those in their thirties and forties may help bring it about.

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