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 6, 2010

Harry Holt- by Susan Soon-Keum Cox

Harry Holt- by Susan Soon-Keum  Cox

susanpicIn 1956 Harry Holt was in Seoul, Korea tenaciously working to save the lives of Korean children. Children who were abandoned. Orphans. Many of them were of mixed races.
   One day an orphanage director from Inchon called Mr. Holt. "I have more babies than I have beds. Can you help me?" Mr. Holt replied, "I can take five." He drove to Inchon to bring the five children back with him to Seoul.
   When Mr. Holt took that little girl with him, he didn't do anything that was important enough to change the entire world. But he certainly did change mine. That little girl was Hong Soon Keum, she became Susan Gourley, and today--I am Susan Cox.    I was the 167th child to be adopted from Korea…
I once asked David Kim, President of Holt International Children's Services (in 1990 when article was written), what he believed was the most important contribution of adoption in Korea. Without hesitation he said, "Elevating the importance of homeless and orphaned children."

Mrs. Harry Holt, The Seed from the East, 1956

This is how Bertha Holt recalled the events that led her and Harry Holt to adopt eight Korean children and facilitate the adoptions of thousands of others. The story began in 1954, when the Holt family attended a meeting in Eugene, Oregon. Bob Pierce, the president of World Vision, showed several films, spoke about the organization’s missionary efforts in Korea, and asked people in the audience to sponsor orphans for $10 per month. In addition to their shared Christian faith, the contrast between Korean racism and American tolerance was fundamental to Pierce’s appeal.

Holts’ subsequent efforts continued this theme, emphasizing Americans’ special responsibility to act on behalf of the “GI babies” left behind by military men. Bertha Holt’s book concludes with a special prayer “to help the mixed-race children of Korea. Father. . .we especially plead for the negro-Korean children.” The Holts’ international adoptions, and those depicted in narratives like The Family Nobody Wanted played crucial political roles during the Cold War, addressing racial dilemmas at home as well as humanitarian crises abroad.

Then came the scenes that shattered our hearts. We saw before us the tragic plight of hundreds of illegitimate children. . .GI-babies. . .children that had American fathers and Korean mothers. . .children that had been hidden by remorseful mothers until it was no longer possible to keep their secret. Finally the children were allowed to roam the streets where they were often beaten by other children who had never known Koreans with blond hair. . .or blue eyes.

Following this documentary evidence of the shameful result of undisciplined conduct, Dr. Pierce related to the audience more of the things that he, himself, had seen. He told how he had driven a jeep by an army dump on one occasion and noticed what looked like a human form almost hidden beneath the garbage and flies. He stopped the jeep to investigate and found, beneath grime and indescribable dirt, a little boy. His skin was light. His eyes were blue. His hair was brown. He was a GI-baby. He had been left there to die.
Mixed-Blood child found beaten to death.

The Koreans are very race conscious,” Dr. Pierce said. “Mixed-race children will never be accepted into Korean society. Even the youngsters, themselves, are conscious of the difference. At a very early age they seem to sense that something is wrong.”
Various numbers of Mixed-Race or Mixed-blood children (Government’s terminology) estimates are from 6,000 to 10,000 that have FOUND HOMES OVERSEAS.
From an Adoptive Family’s Perspective:
Harry Holt My Hero

Holt has always been about the children.
In the mid-1950s Harry and Bertha Holt saw a film about Amerasian children in Korean orphanages who were desperately in need of help. Harry and Bertha sent money and clothes, but that didn’t feel like enough. Then they came to an inspired realization – those children needed families.

Harry and Bertha decided to adopt eight Korean children, but soon learned it would be impossible…unless they could get both Houses of Congress to pass a special law. “Then that’s what we’ll do,” Bertha said, and she moved ahead on faith.
The Holts’ adoption was revolutionary. Their example showed that a family’s love can transcend the barriers of race and nationality. At a time when adoption was regarded as something to be kept secret, they adopted children who were obviously not their birth children. Through their deep Christian faith and fierce determination, they showed the world that adoption is a banner of love, not a badge of shame.

The KOREAN WAR BABY  notes “Badge of Shame”. Do you not KNOW that in Korean in the year 2010, THAT ADOPTION IS STILL CONSIDERED A BADGE OF SHAME?”
YOU who would STOP Intercountry Adoptions (Overseas/International) of the UNWANTED SPECIAL NEEDS  (37,246 by MOHWFA figures) and estimated up to 10,000 Mixed-Blood children (including Private Civil adoptions). Add to these number 29,950 ABANDONED children (Double abandoned with NO PAPERS), well got to get out the calculator:

37246     +   10000    +     29950   = 77,196 UNWANTED
Children sent overseas.

My dear fellow KADs, my younger brothers and sisters, friend and “foe”, consider these numbers with the 195,000 estimates by MOHWFA, (Somebody help me with the MATH) maybe 38% of the children sent from Korean were not,


This erroneous statement bears a closer look...

“with every new family created by adoption, another family gets torn apart”

“Resilience” a film by Tammy Chu 


The story of Resilience is a marvelous story of ONE Birth/Natural mother's sorrow and worthy of all to watch. 
The Korean War Baby CONTINUES to endorse the film,


Adoption History
In 1955, a special act of Congress allowed Bertha and Harry Holt, an evangelical couple from rural Oregon, to adopt eight Korean War orphans. The Holts had a large family before the adoptions, but they were so moved by their experience that they became pioneers of international adoptions and arranged hundreds for other American couples. They relied on proxy adoptions and overlooked the minimum standards and investigatory practices endorsed by social workers. They honored adopters' specifications for age and sex, gave priority to couples with one or no children, and asked only that applicants be “saved persons” who could pay the cost of children’s airfare from Korea. They paid close attention to race-matching for children whose fathers were African-American, but otherwise ignored it entirely. They were happy to accept couples who had been rejected, for a variety of reasons, by conventional adoption agencies.
The Holts believed they were doing God’s work, but they became lightning rods for controversy about how adoptive families should be made. In the press, the Holts were portrayed as heroic, selfless figures. In Congress, Oregon Senator Richard Neuberger called them incarnations of “the Biblical Good Samaritan.” In Christian communities around the country, their work was held up as a model to be emulated. But many professionals and policy-makers in the U.S. Children’s Bureau, the Child Welfare League of America, and the International Social Service devoted themselves (unsuccessfully) to putting the Holts out of business. They considered the Holts dangerous amateurs, throwbacks to the bad old days of charity and sentiment. Their placements threatened child welfare by substituting religious zeal and haphazard methods for professional skill and supervision.
Pearl S. Buck admired the Holts, even though she disliked their Christian fundamentalism, and shared their suspicion that the professionals who were supposed to be helping children were actually doing them more harm than good. By identifying themselves with suffering children that most people ignored, the Holts reinforced the messages that emerged from popular books like The Family Nobody Wanted. Adoption was an act of faith. Love was enough to make the families that children needed.
By the early 1960s, the Holts responded to pressure from the child welfare establishment. Their operation began to follow standard professional procedures, hired social worker John Adams as its Executive Director in 1962, and gradually evolved into a typical adoption agency. In a little more than a decade, the Holts repeated a pattern central to the history of modern adoption: the movement from humanitarian to professionalism and from religion to science.

Korean War Baby knows that the Holts have been both praised and cursed for the good and evil of International Adoption.
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  1. AnonymousMay 31, 2011

    My father-in-law was a gi Korean war orphan (African-American gi father) and Korean mom. He came to Oregon when he was 5 (1956?)

  2. My nephew is a Holt adoptee. What a terrific kid. God Bless Harry Holt

  3. I am KM#369 (Korean Male #369) I was adopted and came to the United States in January of 1958.