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.


May 10, 2010

Spoiled Brats!

 tantrum_logo2

“Aaaiiiieee!!!! NA DO!!!”

Shattering the relative quiet of the shopping mall in Coex Underground Shopping Mall, Korea’s largest in Kangnam Gu, the shrill screams pieced the air like ‘fingernails on a chalk board’.

9308_screaming_girl_throwing_a_temper_tantrum_-_spooked_cat_jumping_in_the_airI looked over toward a 5-6 year old Korean boy, rolling on the floor, kicking and pounding the floor. He apparently wanted some toy and was DEMANDING “Give ME” at the top of his voice. One would think that his Korean mother would just DO SOMETHING.

She spoke to him like an adult to another adult, trying to reason with him…and how was THAT working? Not very well.

“Just POP him one!” I thought with a sense of disgust and disdain. AiieeSheesh!! The mother then gave in and bought the darn thing for him! An immediately he shut up, smiling in victory. ‘Ahah, I knew it, throw a tantrum and the spoiled brat gets what he wants’, shaking my head in disapproval.

THEN from out of no where a THOUGHT popped into MY mind.

“Remember? That was YOU…”

What? No, not me…”

FLASH BACK-Church Daycare Center, Los Angeles, Cal. 1956….

6YrsOld_KindergardenPic_DGBell

“I am sorry, Mrs. Bell, we can’t deal with him. He goes crazy, as soon as he realizes you are gone! He just snaps, screams bloody murder and runs out  in the hall, looking for you. Children get scared and upset. And he doesn’t understand English yet…Maybe…well, maybe he needs to just stay with you awhile.”

A tearful five year old clutched her skirt with both his hands. Slowly recovering from his panic attack, his breathing slowed, but he held onto her Choir Robe for dear life. ‘Not going to lose another mother’!!

“But I can’t take him with me in the choir, what am I going to do?”

“Excuse me, HE is your son?”

An oriental woman in her mid-sixties looked kindly at the distraught Caucasian mother and the clinging “maybe, sorta an Asian boy”. She spoke to him, “An Yang Ha Seyo?” with a slight bow.

The boy peered out from his new mother’s Choir robe, to stare at this woman who could SPEAK! Instinctively, he bowed back and replied “An Yang Ha Seyo, Halmoni”.

I had completely ‘forgotten’ this in my conscious mind, a memory that was stored in my distant past. Somehow God was reminding me of this incident from the time when I had just arrived from Korea. I would not let my new mother out of my sight! Mom had discussed with me several years before her passing on to heaven how I was such a, well, pain in the butt. I would escape from the daycare center and go into the church screaming for her, in ‘Korean’ as I had not learned much English to the amusement of the large congregation of several thousand.

Mom was in the church choir, since she had been a singer with her two sisters since her youth. They were on radio back in the 1930’s as teenagers, singing as the “Willis Sisters” in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Aunt Anna was the eldest, then Nadine (Mom) and kid sister Katie. During the Second World War, as they were performing in the USO for troops, Mom met my Dad in a bar across the street from a dance hall. Mom was very ‘progressive’ and since they both had tried calling their dates several times, SHE bought HIM a beer and then suggested that they go dance together. They had a great time and were married not long after. But I digress, as my best friend Nick Nicholson would say.

From that day forth while we lived in downtown Los Angeles and388567 attended the big church, during the services my little sister and I stayed with the kind “Oriental Lady”. She lived just across the street and my mother would drop us off and Halmoni would take my sister put her on her back and tie some kind of blanket to hold her securely.

During those transition months I learned from her English, ate rice (real food!) and kimchee. I had almost lost those memories until they came flooding back that day as I observed “some spoiled brat” and felt such anger! WHO WAS I ANGRY AT?

Then it hit me, I was angry at the MOTHER! NO, Could that be? YES, it was true!! I was faced with this realization that deep down inside ME was anger at my Korean Mother for ABANDONMENT! It was HER that left my sister and I at the Reception Center and though she came several times a week to check on us, to my child’s thinking I was blaming her somehow. I had unrecognized and unresolved issues of anger and rage, but underneath all that was the PAIN and LOSS I felt as a five year old child. “Why did she send me away?!! Where is she?” Throughout my life I had covered over these thoughts but the Instant Rage came from the deeper LOSS of Abandonment.

I had done all this counseling with OTHERS on these matters, and I knew all the terminology but had never faced this FOR MYSELF. Here I was about to appear on “Exorcist” the program on night time Korean Cable channel TvN. And I was dealing with these thoughts only now. It was a sobering thought and over the next several weeks until the shooting finished I had to set it aside for later.

These are some of the issues children from 2-3 years and above have to deal with, the loss and abandonment issues. We forget some of these feelings but professional counselors (I am NOT a professional) will tell us that it affects us all our lives. Please get Joe Soll’s books on “Adoption Healing: A Path to Recovery”Amazon.

As we explore searching for biological family members we all need to be prepared to DEAL with many issues. It is a long journey, fraught with many unexpected potholes, emotional and mental challenges. Read as much as possible to hear what others, who have blazed the trail ahead of you, have experienced to help prepare and understand what is happening. Even if, as in my case you do not find them, it helps to look inside ourselves and perhaps find balance and inner peace. Good Luck.

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