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.

February 11, 2010

Down and Out in Manila

*From a future book-Korean War Baby
Romano Kristoff, Carla Reynolds, Don. For a magazine ad.
“In 1980 my former partner, “Jack” in the Talent Agency that we ran together, let me get falsely accused of something that actually HE was guilty of doing. His Waray girlfriend had moved in with us, (breaking our no girlfriend moving in ‘rule’) and she brought a sweet sixteen year old cousin to be her maid. Jack’s girlfriend thought her cousin was ‘doing something’ with me and I was NOT, because they were both from the Samar province of the Philippines. Eastern Visayans were of three major groups, Cebuano, Ilongo, and Waray.
warayWomenDarkBeauty The Waray tribe are especially known for their very strong and aggressive women. Back in the Philippine-American War a unit of American soldiers were hacked to death with only a few men escaping death by machete and bolo type weapons, called Talibongs and Binagongs, weapons of choice of the Waray. One survivor who hid under the hacked bodies of other soldiers reported that the women of the village finished off the wounded with their smaller blades. Even other Filipinos will tell you "don't mess with a Waray, especially a woman!"

Waray women are some of the most, uh, passionate of the Visayans. But throughout the 7,000 plus islands one finds many Beauties. The men are also handsome I suppose, but rarely really noticed...

The saying is “Waray, Talaga!” (means ‘really a Waray’) and they are fiercely jealous, the ‘redheaded Sicilians of the Philippines. The girlfriend thought for sure that I was getting way too friendly with her young cousin.


(Now in those days I was not a very nice person, and I am now ashamed to admit that I was almost completely without scruples…So it was only because I had a healthy respect for women from Samar that I ‘did not have sexual relations with that innocent virgin maid’.

One day , she went ‘Waray talaga’ on me, came at me with a butterflyBalisong1 knife, just like a Waray warrior woman. The Filipinos have a long tradition of Bladed weapons and firearms. Well, I knew that my friend WAS guilty, not me, but I took the rap, moved out lock, stock and barrel that night.

 Suddenly I found myself ‘down and out in Manila’ with only a few hundred dollars to my name.

Then for the next five months all the work in film that I could do was postponed. Some offers came but I could not do them because by that time I was only accepting supporting roles or what we call ‘cameo or Day actor’, shot in One Day, Duh. I could not go backwards in my career. For a month I stayed with different friends, sleeping on their couch until I ran out of money.

The “Firehouse” was one of the top bars in the Mabini/Del Pilar area, the major bar/club area at the time in 1980. FIVE go-go dancers made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The bar girls of the Firehouse knew me very well, I had brought in actors and crew members from films since 1976 after "Apocalypse Now" filming had ended. The American owner’s girlfriend knew me because I was free with my ‘ladies drinks’ and tips. 

The ‘bar fine’ to take a bargirl out the rest of the night was 150 pesos (for the Bar) plus 150 for the girl’s services. The total of 300 pesos was the equivalent of $30 dollars. Now 25 years later it is actually only double, about $66 dollars, in Angeles City where most bars were moved by the Mayor of Manila. It is reported to me by a certain unnamed source who was ‘researching’ in winter of 2010 and was making the rounds of nations that have ‘sex tours’.

I give you this information because it is a sad and tragic fact that ‘the oldest profession continues to flourish in many countries worldwide, as well as the land of my birth, Korea. One of the girls (she was over 18 by the way) asked for a drink but I couldn’t afford it. She heard my sad sack tale, then suggested that I could stay with her and some friends. How many friends, I asked? Oh, four or five. Naturally, I said YES…But, I am really really broke. “Don’t worry, we take care of you, no problem bruddah. We love you, no shit.”

They rented a motel type room with two queen size beds and a restroom.FilipinaBarDancers Hmmm, I thought, sleep  with 5 beautiful dancers, most of whom I knew ‘biblically’. Why not! This was a fantasy dream come true! (Remember, I was younger, thinner, crazy, and full of wickedness then). They came from many of the poorest provinces, were entertainers who came to the cities to earn money and send back home to their families.

PI Dancer
I soon learned that it was not exactly what I expected. They got back at  various hours of the night from 2-5 am, after dancing for a ten hour shift and were completely wiped out. Most would also get a ‘customer’ and go for a ‘quickie’ or an ‘all nighter’. I helped out in many ways like keeping the place clean, even did some laundry for them hanging undies in the bathroom. I was the opposite of a pimp, LOL, but I learned all the frustrations and problems that they had daily in their hard life. Some had hopes to marry foreigners and go to another country. The girls had a rough job and many started at 14 or 15, illegal until 16 actually but no policemen would check. They were ‘burned out’ by their late twenties. Some got married and divorced, came back to work When they hit 28 or 29 they were usually the ‘momma-san’ in charge of all the bargirls.

When I was young I helped a friend, Mike in a 'protection racket' Junior High. So soon, when the occasion arose, I protected the girls from some ‘over the top’ jerks/*ssholes who made the mistake to mistreat them, or fail to pay them the agreed amount. I beat the hell out of some who physically hit or hurt them because one thing I will NOT abide with is a bully or sadistic SOB. I am a Recon Marine who follows a code: "Your best Friend-or your Worst Enemy". The youngest one told me that I was like her protecting ‘angel’ after one incident when two idiots Europeans roughed her up and stole her purse, I went to the bar with her and there they were, sitting at a table. I walked up with her, then just started hitting them in rage after they laughed at her. She saw her purse in the booth, picked it up and we walked calmly out. 

From the Literature  Network: Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. Search, Read, Study, Discuss.

The book of “Don Quixote de La Mancha” by Miguel de Cervantes was a favorite of mine when I was young, go figure! It is perhaps due to my attitude when I was a half-breed boy growing up in the streets of Seoul, South Korea, that I did not put up with crap from even bigger boys. I was filled with anger and would ‘snap’ in rage at any provocation. Some thought I was filled with demonic rage (or as my younger brother David might say Multiple Personalities not just Split-Personality). Psychologists would have some great time ‘analyzing me’ and I have gone through some ‘deliverance’ (Wait for the book!).

Don Gordon Bell_Wild Tank Commander
Crazy Don as Tank Commander in some post Apocalyptic genre film.
2004-01-12 07-43-32_0025
My personal creed, Don’t take crap from anyone!!
(Now as a Christian believer, I really don’t hit people…too often)

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  1. Hey man, I know how ya feel about the women of the Philippines, I married one and she is the best woman in every way, she is very loving, very loyal, a great sense of humor and I love her more than any gold-diggin crabby ass American woman...I think ya did the right thing in fuckin those dudes up that treat ANY woman that way....peace bro...

  2. Gregory AdamsMarch 26, 2014

    Hey Don, I really didn't know this about you. You have had many experiences that are moving. I'm glad you found the Lord and have a personal relationship with Him. You are always in my prayers and I love you.

  3. Me too. I'm happy with my Filipina wife.