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.

August 23, 2010

International Korean Adoptees Associations Gathering-Seoul 2010

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Tim Holm opening statements for 2nd International Symposium on Adoption Studies

Aug 3, Tuesday 2nd International Symposium on Adoption Studies

Membership Training 'Ice-breakers'
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Membership Training Group
IKAA Gathering-Seoul 2010

IKAA_KoreanWarBabyPhotoFile 678This is the Korean War Baby finally getting around to reporting on the fabulous, fun-filled, packed-with-useful-information, awesome Gathering event. This was the 3rd time that the Gathering has taken place in Seoul. First was in 2004, second was in 2007, each with increasing numbers of Korean Adoptees from the scattered Diaspora of KAD's. There were wide variety of events, emotional presentations from Unwed Mothers, Adoption Agencies, Adoptee rights groups, MPAK, Amazing Race in Seoul, late night Singing rooms (Don't publish THAT video !!!), two fisted drinking, World Cup Soccer with killer plays in blazing heat and pouring rain, performances by drummers and dancers in Korean cultural garb.

Samsung Dancers

This year marked again the attendance of some from the Local community of adoptees, which I, the KWB have 'coined' KADLinK (Korean Adoptees Living in Korea). Composed of 150-200 adoptees who are currently staying for extended stays from a few months to many years for a few hardy souls. Some are here for study, research, working in Language as teachers, a few have even started businesses. 

Wedding dance.
Many come and go, after discovering more of our rich Korean culture, and seeking to understand our Korean identity. Everyone has various experiences that range from wonderful to well, disappointing, even at the worst nightmarish. Then add life's BS like divorced A-parents, death of one or both parents, sexual abuse, difficulties in Adoption Identity, 'wanting to be white', A-parents not prepared for their Transnational Adoptees difficulties, and on and on.

But don't you have to go back to the beginning, WHY did you and I get sent from the land of morning calm? Reasons changed but some are the same, we all just have to sort it out and Deal with it.
Ginger checks map with teammates in Amazing Race
Major TV stations covered on Prime Time!
I personally believe that each individual must decide for themselves IF and WHEN they want to "Go beyond Cultural Camp"To learn more about Korea, the history, culture, language. Language study can enrich us though as Kim Stoker reported in her presentation in the 2nd International Symposium on Adoption Studies, BUT there are limitations. Ms. Stoker revealed the frustrations of relearning or learning Korean language fluently enough to be 'accepted' by native Koreans. Much like certain EU countries, some people in Korea will not be satisfied with your abilities (even deriding your efforts as childish) but many Korean people DO appreciate and encourage KAD's attempts to speak the mother tongue.

The KWB has found that due to his "Don't look Korean at all" Multicultural appearance most are so shocked when he speaks at all that he is forced to repeat 3 or 4 times. OH, WELL. Grin and Go with the flow. I am amazed how well some of the KADLinKs in the local community HAVE become quite adept and are even working in English / Korean translation work. It is a beginning, yet only a few can do this. Most of us go back to our own realities.

Banners swirling Samsung ladies drummed and danced.
For the vast majority we must live out our lives, content with more or less depth of understanding of our origins. In the Gathering I met adoptees who had never much thought about their Korean Identity until recently. The full gamete to those who have been back to Korea ten times or now live here.
Several adoptees told the KWB they have accepted their 'Lot' in life, they are composite in that they are ethnically / genetically Korean yet their inner being, their mind and soul is perhaps French, Dutch, Danish, American, etc. For those who have come back several times this realization seems to be more settled, those who are just starting on the 'journey' it is new and exciting.

We are all on different places on this journey, some (only 2,500) have found reunion, and many of us will never have that. Some may not want to even search for biological family. This too is okay ... individuals must make their own choice to search or not. We can rejoice with the happy cases and weep with the disappointing ones.
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Got Makoli rice wine? It's an acquired taste. LOL
One thing that became so clear to me was the DIVERSITY of our community. There were representatives from Gay and Lesbian KAD's, 'married and happy' to ... well, 'happy to be divorced'. There were Europeans from several countries with high numbers of KADs or just a few; Americans from many states, not just Minnesota and Michigan. I think more than a dozen countries were represented.

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Ages ranged from the First Generation in their late 50's to the youngest twenty year old. (The KWB was only the oldest Male present, there was a Nuna from the West Coast of USA).


2010-08-08 16-28-21_58years20years The twenty-somethings were the biggest group but many were in their thirties and forties. Korean women look so much younger than their age, ask my Korean wife who complains that I look too old with my natural hair color!! Sorry about that, no more pretending. I am an old fart.
The KWB (58) met the youngest adoptee a young man just turned twenty while strolling through the palace grounds.

KADLinK Team Korea
The Gathering had something for all ages, interests, desires, with events like the World Cup Soccer pitting teams from USA, Korea, and Europe. The KADLinK team did well but one of the European teams won. (I cannot remember which so I wont say). Somebody help me, Dutch or Danes?
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Wednesday was filled with presentations from many interesting perspectives, one wished they could be able to attend two or three at the same time.
Film Festival:
"Going" Director Jason Hoffman
"Made in Korea: A one-way ticket Seoul-Amsterdam? " Director In-Soo Radstake
"Adopted" the movie Director Barb Lee
"The Woman, The Orphan, and The Tiger " Director Jane Jin Kaisen
"Resilience " Director Tammy Chu
The Film Festival had Five films that were screened with a range of different perspectives, highlighting just some of the spectrum of cases. All will generate spirited discussions and opinions and draw attention to the complexities of This Thing of Ours-Adoption.
Sunday nite was the Black N White Affair! Singers, musicians, and Rappers rocked the house!
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For more photo albums check the LEFT COLUMN for FACEBOOK as well as PICASA ALBUMS.