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.


April 7, 2010

Group of 33, #24 Is an Adoptee!

Will Wonders Never Cease!!!
UPDATE April 2 : Received this email (But have agreed to keep secret identity - since HE is the ONLY one with guts to contact the Korean War Baby.
Oh, also his initial is NOT "T", something else, but I digress...here are selected outtakes, without clues identifying "The only one of the Group of 33 that has some guts:

From Group of 33, #24 wrote:


"Don,
First I would like to apologize about the Jar Head clan comment.  I would actually like to thank you for your service to the United States, it is people like you that make it possible for people like me to also have the opportunity to serve our great nation.  I do write this with all sincerity.  I do not want to start a verbal war with you, I do not consider you an enemy.
Like I mentioned this was the first time that I have ever read your blog, and I guess I was kind of surprised.  I could definitely see your distaste for the events that unfolded last Saturday. 
I am a Korean Adoptee, and I just happened to be in town because I met my birth mother for the first time.


KWB
I accept your apology, and will honor my pledge to keep your identity discrete. We all would love to hear more of your journey and re-union with your Natural/birth mother. Some of us have still hope to make contact. My cell is 010-4224-0773 and you have my email address. First dinner at 3 Alley Pub is on me Call me when you get back. Tuesday’s are 3 Alley Pub’s Famous “Wing Nite” No Reservations but I am one of the Old Guys at the End of the Bar! Some folks actually like me.
3 Alley Pub-Itaewon, Seoul, South Korea
3AlleyPub Chickenwings
3 Alley Pub wing nite

KWB
Hey, I would love to introduce you and your mother, extended family to the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network for THEY could help you when you return to live here, even with translation and of course with the emotional issues that YOUR Natural/Birth Mother has gone through over the years, issues like guilt and holding the secret in many cases. 

They are Korean mothers who despite the rejection of their own families, Korean Society, and still lack of government financial help, have KEPT their babies. You see they of all women in Korea can empathize with YOUR Natural Mother who was probably faced with the same situation BUT 20 or more years BEFORE. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THIS, Dong Saeng? That means Younger Brother? #24 just doesn’t fit anymore. You may call me (younger brother to older brother) Hyung (heyoung – said quickly).

Korean society has changed but slowly, and even in the late 80's and 90's when perhaps you were born. Sorry, don't remember how old you are but the situation was even worse.



Oh, and do get back to me on your employment plans, I can give you some advice on the possibilities. Also you should apply for an F-4 visa before coming back from (UKNOWN). You should take it easy for a few months first of course and get to know your new/birth family. Let me know how long will you stay for, etc. I can hook you up with 3rd tier teaching jobs, (because if you are a full blood Korean you will be discriminated by Korean Mothers who want a Caucasian Teacher (1st tier), TIK-This is Korea.



“from Dong Saeng”
Anyways there is a lot that I don't know about adoption and the people and organizations behind it.  Sorry about not knowing who Molly Holt was (it seems like it might have the same severity if I told you I didn't know who the president was) (the Korean President NO, but USA President then that would have been a definite Yes) but I guess I would appreciate it more if you educated me instead of verbally assault my ignorance on the subject.  People were surprise when I said I didn't know who you were as well.

KWB
All is forgiven, (as long as The Korean War Baby has exclusive first rights to your story in my blog) LOL. You may continue to educate yourself by reading and fact-checking my information, never trust anyone, but find 2-3 sources and seek out all sides.

So I guess my original post was just my concern for such a generalization of the voters or at least the gang of 33 (POS).  I was caught up in the moment and probably said some things that I shouldn't of.  Adoption is something that has recently sparked my interest, and that is why you haven't seen me active in any other discussions.  And the fact that I don't live in Korea probably has something to do with that as well. I like to consider myself open minded but sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me, and I hope you understand that.
KWB
This crisis is a TEACHING MOMENT my friends.
Dong Saeng, look at this small tidbit of facts from Korean Women's Development Institute-2010, Feb. report. from my blog.
Unwed Mothers who Kept their Babies

  5.8% - 1984
  7.2% - 1998
  8.3% - 1999
  8.6% - 2000
11% - 2001
31.7% - 2005
37% - 2009 *Latest Figures from KWDI
This means that of the hundreds, even thousands of Unwed Korean Mothers only a small percent KEPT their Babies. Since 1984, there have been over 55,000 Mothers who have kept their babies, SORRY but Unwed Mothers still have it bad from Family, Society, and lack of Government support.

YOUR MOTHER FACED OVERWHELMING PRESSURES. YOU COULD HAVE BEEN ABORTED EASILY. YET SHE BORE YOU FULL TERM.


What sorrows has she lived through? Do you think she FORGOT YOU? NO, everyday she lived with this silent HAN.


Han is the collective suffering of the people. Do you know that Korean people are called “Han-Gook” so it literally mean “People of Han”. Jewish people have a common understanding of this plaintive cry of the Lamenting suffering of a people over many generations.
You will hear people cry out and beat their chest over their heart, AaaaiiiiGooo!! It is the same as the Jewish cry of Collective ALL suffering over all generations "OouuVay!!”

So, what does "aigoo" mean? What does Aigoo mean?

The word "Aigoo" has somehow become the common writing for Korean expression 아이구 "Aigu!" over the Internet. "Aigu!" is pretty much equal to "Oh my (God)!" in English. An Sonjae explained in his article "Literary Translation from Korean into English: A Study in Criteria" where this expression could be used:
“Thus the exclamation 아이구 "Aigu!" is used, with varying tonality, in keening for a dead parent, or expressing sympathy for another person's bad news, but it is also used on spilling a cup of coffee, or to express exasperation on just missing a bus, amazement on meeting a long-lost friend, or fury at losing one's job.”
It is Keening or Lamenting with beating one’s chest, and true wailing like for one who has Died. It the cry of her hearts anguish. Now some churches throughout Korea encourage their members to “wail and Aigoo” loudly, so God will believe they are ‘sincere’. This is still a practice with quite a few both Catholic and Protestant variations of Christianity, yet I have seen both the ‘produced’  with NO TEARS, but when the REAL PAIN is felt, you will know it. When prayer time ends a bell is rung and most suddenly are fine and begin to chat with their fellow Jip Sa Nims (deacon ladies for Protestants and Catholics alike).
I have heard many women who have had Abortions to also know this HAN, for one out of two, yes, 50% of the women of childbearing age 16-50 have had at least ONE ABORTION. I have personally met women who had 4-5-6 abortions JUST TO HAVE A SON. Don’t believe some stories that claim that Koreans Don’t prefer Sons, that applies to less than a third.

THIS IS WHY THE KOREAN WAR BABY IS PASSIONATE!!
I am consumed by the enormity of the numbers, I have seen broken women tear their hair out and wail in inconsolable grief for the children they have NOT because of abortion and adoption. They knew that I was adopted, and opened their secrets to me, unburdening long held grief and sorrow.
BUT those who BLAME ADOPTION are FOOLS, I am so sorry, but they DO NOT understand the mind of the Korean people and the still lingering hold of  NEO CONFUCIAN beliefs. Even Rev. Kim DoHyun, I challenge your teachings that by stopping Overseas/InterCountry Adoptions that it will solve the problems.
You can change the laws but you cannot change the hearts of the people so easily. THIS takes TIME as it did in USA and Australia. We are still in the early 1970’s as far as Social Justice and equality for Women, just to name other examples. Even a certain scholar from Europe who has graciously inquired to my health, agrees with me on some aspects of the complexity of This Thing of Ours-Adoption.

I have met women who also have given up their baby for Adoption, we as men cannot understand it fully. That which grew inside her womb, moving constantly, knowing her voice. YOU WERE THAT BABY inside her. You say you have not thought about adoption much until recently. YOU NEED TO START to fully understand the relationship between your Adoptive Family and your Birth/Natural family. You have issues of Language, culture, ackwardness of not ‘knowing’ her. Read Jane Jeong Trenka’s Amazon-LanguageofBlood,FugitiveVisions Books, Hey, when you get here, I will give them to you, but buy them now and read the first, Language of Blood.
You are no longer my ‘enemy’, but let my blog Korean War Baby and myself teach you where to seek many opinions from others. Time for you to get your act together to walk the next steps of your journey.


YOU ARE THE FLESH AND BLOOD THAT YOUR MOTHER HAD TO GIVE UP!!!

SHE GAVE YOU UP IN HER OWN LOVE AND HOPE THAT YOU WOULD FIND A LOVING HOME. But it is not the fault of Adoption Agencies OR the Korean Government. It is not the economy STUPID, it is the HEARTS of the society. “WooRi” means US, Our, Our group, and this is the essence of Confucian thought. To take care of another child that is not of your CLAN’s Bloodline was actually ILLEGAL back in the early days.
 Dr. David HyungBok Kim writes in Who Will Answer, relates in his book that Korean Law did NOT allow adoption that was not of a relative. Also, Tobias Hubinette has this in his book, Comforting an Orphaned Nation. I don’t agree completely with Tobias on some points but we actually listen to each other. Me, an unlettered guy who never finished college is listened to by him, I am honored.
MANY OF THE MOTHERS DID HOPE THAT THEY WOULD SEE US AGAIN.
This is a English translation of Korean women's Website

"Each woman entering "The Sad Love Story" community is asked to choose her own screen name. Often, she chooses a nickname associated with the baby, such as the baby's date of birth (DOB) or the baby's intended name. Many names[15] embody a woman's sadness, guilt, shame and love towards her baby: 나쁜  엄마 (bad mother); 슬픈엄마 (sad mother); 슬픈  나 (sad self); 민영엄마 (Minyoung's mommy); 부끄러운  엄마 (shameful mommy); 해솔아  미안해 (I am sorry, Haesol); 호석사랑 (love for Hosuk); 진성사랑 (love for Jinsung); 보이지  않는  사랑 (unseen love); 너무  늦어버렸어 (it is too late); 가슴에  풀리지  않는  멍울 (a smoldering knot in her chest).

In "Unsent Letters," women ask their babies about their health; they tell them not to cry too hard, to eat and sleep well. The somewhat banal imaginings about their babies' post-adoption, everyday lives are often flooded with undiluted, excessive feelings of guilt, shame, regret, sadness, pain, loss, anxiety, ambivalence, and restlessness, as well as explosive anger toward: society; the unplanned pregnancy; the birth father; the mother herself; and the baby."


This will give you some idea of what your mother may have felt. Go, get educated but look for the BIG PICTURE to total story. Only on the Korean War Baby will you find THAT!!
 REALITY ONLINE ABOUT
 This Thing of Ours-Adoption
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2 comments:

  1. Regarding work opportunity for persons of mixed blood in Korea, I was a visiting professor (ESL) in Seoul at one of Korea's best universities ("first-tier teaching position). Also, English language advisor to Mayor of Seoul Koh Gun (who became Prime Minister, and then Acting President of Korea).

    Besides helping write the Mayor's inaugural (held in Sejong Hall, broadcasted by major Korean news networks, and attended by the US Ambassador and other dignitaries), I also helped write the speech for the president of the World Taekwondo Association, given at the opening ceremony for Taekwondo at the 1996 Summer Olympics of Atlanta. Grandfather and I are Han.

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  2. I would also add that Nolin was the one to introduce Ami and the early coffeeshop meeting in 1997, the founding members of GOA'L. We are both one of the 12 founding members, old dogs of the First Generation.

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