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.


June 30, 2010

Return to the Motherland-Adoptees come back

BlowingHarp_PeaceChurch_DongSeoul The Korean War Baby first came back in 1994 for a short two week visit. He was with a church group from USA that had conferences in several cities with attendance in the hundreds to several thousand. Playing the harmonica on the worship team, the Korean Pastor from Los Angeles would introduce the members of the American team.
Blowing my Blues Harps. 

When Pastor Min told them about the Mixed-Blood Honurrah Harmonica player, there was utter silence andVCFMinistryTrip_95_Team every eye focused on  the KWB. Silence was followed by gasps and sighs, shock and awe. Only after a couple of years of living in Korea, after a church invited him to live here in 1995, has the reasons become clear. Korea was already learning about us Adoptees through media. Every week newspaper, magazines, television shows highlighted our stories.
Koreans always assumed that I was just another American, of uncertain genes which even then the KWB did not know.
I have heard from some adoptees who came back in the mid 1980’s to visit and some to work as English teachers. After the Olympics held in Korea in 1988, Korean Adoptees began to come back in increasing numbers to visit the homeland. The relative peace of the 90’s and election of Korea’s first Non-Military leader heralded the transition from military rule to civilian democracy. By then the flow of visiting adoptees was becoming a growing flood.
The Four major adoption agencies had already assigned staff to help in providing parts of adoptee’s files. Why only part, you might ask? Well, we must remember for instance that Holt International has usually only files in English, but Holt Korea (which by the way has been run by Korean leaders since early 1970’s) has both English and Korean languages. ALSO, in most cases there were files at the Orphanage or Center that the child was first left in, places that have in some cases closed down. Some information might be included in the files in the Orphanage/home such as a document called “Reason for Relinquishment”- THESE ARE NOT sent to the Processing Adoption Agencies. This was discovered in a recent case that the KWB helped on. It was not deemed necessary by the orphanage to send along. Important information was provided that was no where in other files.
Yes, there are files that CANNOT be just given to the Adoptee. Even in USA recent case where a birth mother sued because SHE DID NOT WANT to meet the child from a RAPE. Somehow the Domestic adoptee found out her name and just made contact. The Birth woman won a law suit that HER RIGHTS to NOT have CONTACT were broken. Yet I do understand the Adoptees feelings and thoughts, having read many of their arguments. As a BIRTH FATHER though of two children, I personally would like to have contacts and have made inquiries on my son. I do have contacts with my “biological daughter”. But Birth Parents in Korea especially are NOT just ready to make contact. IT IS STILL CONSIDERED SHAMEFUL FOR KOREANS TO OPENLY ADOPT A CHILD, We Should try to see it all from the Korean Society’s perspective.
In the past CLOSED Adoption method was the norm and adoptees just weren’t expected to come BACK. However, Harry and Bertha Holt noted in one of their books that they always knew that some would come back and records were kept as best as possible. As times have changed in the West and subsequently with OUR Western minds many of us who have come, may have thought that Korean birth parents are just waiting for us. This is NOT always the case, nor is it the NORM.
Resilience Yes, there were tragic cases such as in “Resilience” by Tammy Chu (See left column for link) and “In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee” by Deanne Borshay Liem. These are true documented stories of irregularities and outright kidnapping-BY THE BIRTH MOTHER’S FAMILY in Resilience. Deanne was given another girl, Cha Jung Hee’s identity when Cha was sent to Europe. Deanne is still looking for Cha Jung Hee.
These are but some of the weird cases but they do not represent a majority of cases. matterofchajungheeSome claim because birth families cannot be found that must mean that Adoption Agencies are guilty of hiding or falsifying information. There is NO SIMPLE “One Size Fits All” scenario, folks.
“Resilience” has been shown twice in Seoul for special showings and SOLD OUT, after its debut in Pusan International Film Festival last 2009. Hard hitting story that is still developing, covering several years of the principal characters. But it has a bit of Hollywood marketing hype that is a great “Sound Bite”  but just ain’t true.
 “For every family created by adoption, another family was torn apart”. This simply is NOT true, please look at these disturbing facts from the MOHWFA: Disabled (37,276), Mixed-blood (6-9,000 estimated), and abandoned (29,950 NO Name/documents) they add up towards 75,000 plus. These are FACTS confirmed and available in English from several sources.
Were they TORN from their families? HELL NO. Don’t think you can honestly say that…Sounds dramatic but let’s be real, folks. I endorse the film but not the marketing ploy. Watch for “Resilience” to appear in Film Festivals near you. Do check the Facebook fan club.
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“So How Come Only 2,500 have been Reunited?”
Could it be that SOME or MANY birth mothers/fathers are faced with the shock of telling OUR husband/wife (Korean way of identity) and Our Family that “Oh, by the way guess who is coming to dinner…your half sister/or worse the sister/brother you did not know about.” (Ask Maya, who is currently writing her story about that one, how her reunited birth family prefers to keep thing “discrete and secret” but could you teach English to your ‘nieces’ FOR FREE. Maya’s story was publicly shared last fall at “Boarding Bridges”. We await her book on the painful reality of SOME reunions).

UPDATE: Maya is not Maya Weimer, MISTAKENLY MENTIONED.

We must remember that Birth mothers particularly and in less cases Birth fathers have moved on with their lives. The reasons are many for Korean parents gave up, relinquished, abandoned, forced by social and family pressures, etc. THERE IS NOT a single reason but many and could ff20013254c2198739bf0c96d0696b5fbe a combination of several. In a few cases poverty, divorce, or other circumstances led to giving up/away “Extra” children, Usually the younger ones. Hard to get rid of older children. The point is that Children were UNWANTED, REJECTED, SENT AWAY.
NOW THAT REALLY SUCKS!!! Really, adoptees DO face these issues in life and Adoptive Professionals and Adoptive Parents/Family had better learn about them. The RESOURCES are out there for discerning folks to Do it better. But we still have stupid and ignorant folks in many extreme areas of the Spectrum. The EXTREME VIEWS are to be avoided, International agreements and guidelines such as the Hague Conventions are only recently coming into effect in USA, NOT IN KOREA YET.
Hopefully the latest Prospective Adoptive Parents are learning “To DO it better” and Adoption Professionals are also helping Adoptive Parents deal with the issues of Trans-racial and Cross-cultural families, Adoption Identity, Growing up thinking we were white, etc. Go buy the movie “Adopted” and be sure to get the “We Can Do Better” series that the KWB bought (support these gals and guys and LEARN, this series is great for everyone in This Thing of Ours-Adoption).
The facts ARE though that the RIGHTS of Birth Parents must be considered as well as Rights of Adoptees. OH, I read some bloggers of obviously disgruntled, angry KAD’s and other American domestic Adoptees who DEMAND the Basic Human Rights of knowing and getting all their files, so they can locate their birth parents!!! By God, they feel that THEIR right is to have everything in their files and that their Rights outweighs the Rights of the Birth Parents. It might be that the Birth Parents DO NOT WANT TO HAVE CONTACT, let alone explain to their family the shocking news that OUR Olma had given up a child or two before marrying OUR father.
Why is it that we who were adopted cannot see this? Many of us do understand this balance of Rights, but the extreme Anti-Adoption Adoptee Associates claim only THEIR RIGHTS. Doesn’t it make sense that Rights of ALL involved in This Thing of Ours-Adoption have to be BALANCED and PROCESSES followed? It is just plain common sense that certain measures MUST be taken in the PROCESS of Initial Contact, Document Verification, DNA testing recently available.
Only in 2008 did the Korean government pass laws that gave budgets to develop in each of the Four Major Adoption Agencies a Post Adoption Services section. What was done before by only one or two staff, needed to be increased as more and more Korean Adoptees came back to first visit and experience, then some began to delve deeper. Some of us wanted to  search for our birth family…news papers then television shows told our stories, then Reunions happened, yet with all the stories and shows Less than 2,500 have “reunited”.
The reunions are with mixed results, as would be expected. Most of the28adoption_533 estimated 190-200 thousand KAD’s are Korean only genetically. Some KAD’s complain and even whine and moan that they “lost culture, language, identity, family, etc”…somehow ignoring the INCONVENIENT TRUTHS that most of US were GIVEN UP.
We were children of love, perhaps from rape, mothers unable to abort,   mothers able but unwilling to end life yet Unable to raise us as they were rejected by their own family, society, lack of government support. “Products of divorce, spouse abandonment, Physical or Mental Disabilities, Premature, Mixed-Blood, SO MANY reasons.
CribAtHolt Ranging from just days old to teenagers, WE who were adopted Overseas suffered Loss upon Loss, Separation from mother/father, Mental and emotional pains, Rejection, and much more IN VARYING DEGREES. It matters not at what age we were adopted, studies and stories of adoptees show that we were affected.
Yet one must go back to the beginnings, the REASONS we had to go away. Only by going back to the REASONS for being given up can we find any peace of mind. You, dear reader, compare the opinions of many and make up your own mind. Find you own Balance and Peace.

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