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.


March 1, 2010

Motivation to Serve


Why do I want to serve GOA'L









Korean War Baby
Holt #A-20



What motivates me? If you check My Story on my blog at the top you would find out that I was one of the first of thousands of Korean Adoptees to find homes in a land that was not their own. I am now 58, or 59 by Korean accounting, one of the Old Guard, 'saved' from the devastation just after the Korean War. I was a Korean War baby and one of thousands of 'war babies' born of Foreign troops serving in Korea, born from liaisons with Korean women-children born out-of-wedlock, rape, or abandoned by the 'fathers' who returned to their countries. I was on the first plane from Holt Adoption Program, leaving on May 21, 1956. I lived most of my life only knowing about the war through books, MASH television series, studying TaeKwonDo, meeting Korean Marines and soldiers in Vietnam. My level of understanding my mother's people was about 2 on a scale of ten.

Pastor Peter Kim's Wife (Choi SaMoNim), Kathy, me. 1995
Ilsan compound, Holt Museum.
 
I first came back to my mother's land, in 1994 for a two week visit with a Korean pastor from the church I attended in , followed by 3 more two week ministry trips with my church from the USA. From the first meeting with Ami Nafzger after Nolin Stratton's introduction, I saw the need for the organization of GOA'L as the Founder presented it to us. At first it seemed like we would be some sort of loose Support Group which was a good idea. I was very surprised to see how quickly we grew, how many adoptees were actually in the country. By word of mouth, newspaper articles in the English dailies, the word got around and the meetings swelled.

YeoSeong DongAh article, June 1997

When Korea experienced the crisis wrongly called IMF (who actually helped Korea recover and OPEN up to more foreign investment), I was here and almost left but I felt compelled to stay and help prepare Koreans for Globalization. By being here I had a chance with all my students to expose them to the realities of people of mixed-heritage or as they say, mixed-blood. Constant rejections done in subtle ways, never face to face, faced me all the time. Though upset and even angry, I knew that deep down it bothered my PAIN inside that I must deal with personally. I must face my own 'demons' before I could help Koreans with theirs.



When Korea approved the F4 Visa in 1999 I was one of the first to get one. For all overseas Koreans up to 25% ethnicity, a grandparent of Korean genes, it gave Korean Adoptees a better chance to come and learn about their homeland, stay for awhile if they wanted and make a living by first teaching English or even their European languages for our brethren from the EU. More and more began to come, some to search for their biological family, many to discover their roots and what being a Korean really meant. I went with some to meet their families for the first time, a very emotional time for all.

After getting married to a Korean woman, a public servant with a gun, in 2005 for the next 3 years I could not attend the conferences but dropped by the office and kept in touch. I felt that GOA'L was in great hands with the new leadership and that the fundamental functions and ideology of GOA'L were being carried on by those who were dedicated to helping Korean Adoptees from all walks of life and countries, maintaining an openness to all stories, attitudes, viewpoints in the complex issues of This Thing of Ours-Adoption. We who are of the Diaspora are from the entire spectrum, those who do not plan to return to Korea to those who have come back, searched and found family members with various results, some have changed their names to reflect their Korean identity. Adoptees attitude about their own adoption ranges from Happy to Sad, content to unsettled, peaceful to filled with rage. It is like Black to White and all the degrees of Grey in between.

Then two years ago, I met two students who were Domestic Korean adoptees. I discovered that there were thousands like us, thousands perhaps equal to the 170-200 thousand Overseas/InterCountry/TransRacial/Trans-Cultural adoptees. Both of the two students had been secretly adopted, and were Late Discovery Adoptees, who told me how they found out in a shocking way. The more I searched it surprised and then shocked me even making me angry. I checked about Korea and learned about the legend of Princess Bari, the seventh daughter of a Chosen King, who threw her away and abandoned her to death because she was just a girl, and he needed a son to inherit his Crown. Bari da actually means "to throw away" so it is called in english "The Abandoned Princess"but she became the Matriach of the Mudang, the woman priestesses of Shamanism.

BaRi Gong Ju-Abandoned Princess
Princess Bari's story matched my student's life and it helped to explain why she was considered unlucky to be born, a seventh daughter by her Natural/Birth mother, because of the unluckiness of her being a 7th daughter. TIK-This Is Korea we must consider the cultural differences. Her story is an example of women's place in Korean society since the late Neo-Chosen period. As I discovered through various sources the actual numbers and began to study on the internet for the first time in depth. I joined with activist groups ASK and TRACK, both groups I found concerned with the issues of our Birth mothers who actually wanted to keep their children.


I began to study more and more, every aspect of the issues of Abortion, birth mothers, domestic and ICA adoption, the psychological and mental effects of abandonment, difficulties of some in attachment disorders. I had so much information and no way to express it, then I took the plunge and began to blog in June of 2009, hardly knowing the simplist tasks at first, needing "blogging for Dummies" desparately. I found that site!


This is what "Pulled me back In" just when I thought that my involvement with GOA'L would just be limited. This is why I am so passionate about This Thing of Ours-Adoption. GOA'L provides a safe and neutral hub, a place where an adoptee can come for help in their journey of self identity, searching for their bio-family, working and living here, whatever their needs and wants are about. I believe strongly that we must remain open to all, let all voices be heard and NOT be bias in any way.


There are some who think that GOA'L should be against Adoption, Intercountry and Domestic, and therefore represent a group that DO believe that only supporting Unwed Mothers to keep their children is the answer. Regrettably this is not the case as my research and the facts show that only some of the thousands of Adoptees from Korea feel this way. GOA'L must not be tunnel visioned nor ignore the majority of adoptees who have not yet come to a place where they have formed an informed opinion on these matters.


Therefore, I throw my hat into the ring, declaring myself as a candidate for the position of Secretary General of Global Overseas Adoptee's Link website GOA'L . Please mark your calendar for the General Meeting on 27 March, Saturday, place and time to be announced. You must be physically challenged, oops, physically PRESENT in order to vote...Stone age rules from the Korean government it seems, they haven't caught up with Cyberspace/Internet/Online Voting yet. Sigh!


Sincerely,


Don Gordon Bell



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