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.

July 4, 2010

I Am Korean American- Web site

Browse Archive « I Am Korean American


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I AM KOREAN AMERICAN is an on-going web project that aims to collect brief profiles of Korean Americans.

Every new profile of a Korean American will be featured on the homepage. A profile will consist of the person’s name, age, location, occupation, and a personal statement that could be a mini bio, a memorable story, a rant, aspirations, or anything else. Our goal is to compile a collection of profiles that showcase the diversity and many interesting personalities of the Korean American population. We hope that our collective efforts will provide a snapshot of the Korean American community at this point in our history.

We’re not a celebrity blog and we don’t care if you’re known by millions or if you’re known by a few dozen. We’re excited to learn more about you and to share your story with others.

I AM KOREAN AMERICAN is a project of Barrel, a brand and web consulting company in New York.
To submit your photo and profile:

Submit your story/photo

The Korean War Baby thinks being a Korean-American has multiple meanings. Look at my posting on the ‘degrees of REAL KOREANNESS’ from December 2009.
Koreanness_Shade of grey
“…However, the public in Korea has some very interesting views on “What is a REAL KOREAN”. The KWB has heard from thousands of students, yes, at least a couple of thousand, on this issue. He has taught at two major universities, three Middle Schools, plus business classes, Shinsegae Department Culture Centers, and Private classes for over 14 years in Seoul, Korea.

In EVERY case the issue of being a Korean War Baby and IP Yang In or 입양인 comes up. At one middle school, which must remain unnamed, over 2/3 of the students had lived abroad 3 years or more. They had studied at private or public schools in English speaking countries or in International Schools.

The remaining 1/3 of students told the KWB several times that those who had lived OUTSIDE Korea for more than two years “They were NOT Korean anymore! When he questioned them further, they implied that living outside the country for that long put them OUTSIDE the “WE” or “우리" concept. They were not in the group of Real Koreans anymore, in my students' own jealous mindsets.”

Compare this chart from earlier post:

What shade of Korean-Ness are You?

Percentage Factors of Percentage of Korean-Ness
100 % Full-Blooded Real Korean-Both parents are Korean/live in Korea (North or South) their entire lives/speak and write in Hangul/know history, culture, food,/ served in military (for males)/studied abroad LESS than 2 years.
90 % Korean student who has REAL KOREAN Parents/Grandparents- They have studied abroad MORE than 2 years and speak other languages very well. They are still considered just Real Koreans.
80 % First Generation Emmigrants from Korea- Korean Adult Emigrants to Foreign country. They have chosen to emigrate with their family. Their level of understanding of Korea is 100%. Many chose to keep Korean citizenship for themselves, some become citizens of new country.

Korean Diapora- Living for several generations in CHINA, JAPAN, RUSSIA, and others are not treated the same as Koreans living in USA, UK, European Union.They cannot get the F-4 visa to come and live/work. Because they live out of the country, much loss of Culture/ language ability split with host country/citizenship may be of host country. Sakhalin island changed citizenship several times.
70 % 1.5 Generation Immigrant-Both Korean Parents and family Emigrated to another country when under 18 yrs. old. Caught between both cultures they are still adjusting to their new situation.
60 % 2.0 Generation Immigrant -Both Korean Parents but BORN a CITIZEN of Foreign Country and lived there most of life. (‘Korean-American’) Speak and write Korean at low to mid level. Does not know Korean Culture/history/practices very well but has general understanding. Considered a Kyopo, many young think they are NOT Korean but became the citizen of country they live in.
50 % Bi-Racial/Bi-Cultural- One parent Korean other is NOT; Lives in Korea. Culture/language/history knowledge high level. Education in International Schools help develop more OPEN understanding on racial prejudice. IF attending local Korean schools child must face more prejudice from other “Real Koreans”.
40 % Bi-Racial/Bi-Cultural- One parent Korean other is NOT; Lives Foreign country with low to moderate levels of Cultural/language/history ability and understanding. Deals with prejudice but has support in having parents from both ‘worlds’.
30 % Full-Blooded Korean Adoptee-Older child 3 and up, remembers some of Korean life: has lost most language/cultural understanding/etc.
Baby or very young (up to 3) Full-Blooded Korean Adoptee- None or only ‘learned knowledge’ of being Korean. Culture Camps, self study, trips to motherland, etc help in Korean Identity development.
Some Full-Blooded Korean Adoptees are also Bi-Cultural as they are adopted by Korean living abroad as Residents or Citizens, so they may speak or understand 25% of Korean language. Some are adopted by Korean Adoptees married to foreigners.
Level of understanding is based on learned or experienced culture.
20 % Mixed-Blood Korean Adoptee- From 25 to 50% Korean genetic ancestry; adopted into Foreign family (usually Caucasian); only learned knowledge of being Korean, or now living in motherland to continue ‘Going Native Korean’.
10 % Low Level of Blood Quantum- Person with one Grandparent or 12.5% Korean Ancestry. Extremely low level or NO understanding of Korean Culture/language/history/etc. This is according to the person’s own desires and self-identity, i.e. “How does one view yourself”
*Remember that it is where YOU put yourself and how YOU identify yourself that matters. This is the Korean War Baby’s own chart.

The Korean War Baby would love to hear from KAD’s on his chart of Korean-ness, any comments of other groups, please let him know. The point is that being say, Korean-American is full of complexity and varying levels.

When Korean Adoptees come back to live or work for extended times they run into the problem of “explaining WHAT they are” and “Why don’t you speak Korean well?” Many have experienced that when they open their mouth and try speaking Korean language they will be misunderstood and constantly reminded that their degree of Koreanness is not enough. Be tough, tell them who you ARE. Don’t be shy or apologetic.

The KWB tries to use humor. “I was one of Korea’s first Exports” gets them all the time. I have told “My story” thousands of times in the 15 years I have lived here, and think of it as “in your face, hello, I am back…get used to me and just deal with it.” Now don’t get me wrong, I thank GOD that I was able to have a family with all their imperfections adopt me. As a HALF-Korean that is just plain fact, but I am glad to see that ‘Real Koreans’ are now having to adjust their definition of what Korean-Ness is REALLY ABOUT.

With multi-cultural marriages numbering over 160,000 (Sure about 10-15 percent fail) they have recently documented over 103,000 Mixed-Blood children. HEY, KOREA is NOT Homogeneous any more!!!! HAHAHA. 

Get over it, get real I tell my Korean Students.
Time to redefine!!! What is a Real Korean, Hmmm?

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