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 6, 2010

South Korea's complicated embrace of gyopo - latimes.com

Flag of South KoreaImage via Wikipedia
The KWB brings attention to these articles to help other to understand what Korean people think about “Bananas” and other kinds of “Others with some Korean genes and various levels of understanding what it is to be KOREAN”.





 
South Korea's complicated embrace of gyopo - latimes.com
100x75 “Reporting from Seoul - Ann Babe knows her real name, birthday and hometown. That's because it was all included on the note left with her at the South Korean bus stop where she was abandoned as an infant in 1986.
However, beyond the name of the orphanage where she was later adopted by an American couple, that's all she knew about her South Korean roots.
The only way to find out more, Babe decided, was to return to the land of her ancestors.

Ann became one of many ethnic Koreans raised abroad who return to explore their heritage. Some come to earn money and brush up on their Korean or to please their parents. Babe took a job teaching English to learn about her roots.
What she found was a culture quite unlike that in the United States. And though she appreciates the sense of community extended to returning ethnic Koreans, at times she still felt like a stranger.

The term ‘Gyopo’ connotes "our Koreans who happen to be living overseas in another country," said David Kang, a second-generation Korean American and director of Korean studies at USC. He emphasized the tribal focus of the word: "It's this very atavistic view of Koreans as our blood overseas, almost."
For some ethnic Koreans who come here, the term gyopo has carried a negative connotation, singling them out. But most accept it as a practical label.
About 7.5 million ethnic Koreans live outside Korea, 2.5 million of them in the United States, Kang said.

As Korean Adoptees of full-blood one faces similar comparisons and are considered as the same by many Koreans. So they expect you to be able to Speak Korean but you DON’T have one or both Korean parents if you were adopted by Non-Koreans.  You might be a Half-Korean like the KWB but again might not have learned Korean much, or enough for them. You have to be patient in explaining exactly who you are and your family.  OH, how to do this when you cannot communicate!?
Based on her interactions in South Korea, Babe says she can break down the attitudes toward gyopo into three types.
She described the first as "a person that's older who is sort of angry about you being a Korean but not being fully Korean." The second type is "very friendly and helpful" but sometimes "overbearing when they try to convert you or reform you."
The third are people who seem flummoxed and simply incapable of grasping her background.

But gyopo who look Korean but behave in a "non-Korean" way may be a target of discrimination. Kang also pointed out Koreans' tolerance for most other foreigners' behavior: "If you're white, you can get away with almost anything."
Looking Korean has affected her employment opportunities as well.
Many English teaching positions posted on the Internet include "no gyopo" clauses. "They don't fully understand that speaking and appearance are not really related," she said of employers. Michelle Kim, a New Jersey-raised gyopo, described an interview scenario that has become familiar. "They say, 'Oh, we didn't know you were Korean; we thought you were American,' and I say, 'Well, I am an American.' "
She added that "gyopo only" jobs usually pay less.

The KWB notes are that YES, this is true but it is all based on Korean’s perceptions of  “Best Teachers” and the Institutes must give in to the whims of the mothers, the AhJumMa who wants a White teacher even if they are from Belgium with a heavy accent. The KWB has lived here 14 years and lost many jobs to ‘Whitey’ nothing you can do about it!
For some the reality of being a banana does not give “White Privilege” in the land of our mothers/fathers. SIGH…
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