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.


September 22, 2010

Adoption apology stories - ABC Perth - Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Australia recently has reached almost a zero level of Unwed Mothers giving up their children for adoption. Listen to this radio broadcast that interviews social workers, women who were unwed, some adoptees who have talked with their birth mothers and found that their mothers suffered over the years. The Balance of stories presented though is very good in that it shows a broad difference of cases, as it is in life. Even in this broadcast there are different ‘stories’ from different perspectives.

“Marilyn” complains that she was forced and treated like a criminal, she blames the doctors, social workers, etc. for being pressured as a young girl to give up her baby. 

Adoption apology stories - ABC Perth - Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Sue” gave up two children for adoption and has not found them, but calls the social worker who first spoke,  a liar. Sue has not had contact with her own family since the birth of her baby. This shows to me that it was indeed the mother’s own family that pressured the Sue to give up her children for adoption.

Kathleen, given up for adoption, found her birth mother but after writing letters to her, her birth mother discussed it with her present husband and decided to NOT have contact with her daughter. This is a crushing story but is also TRUE in Korea, where most have seen on television many cases of Adoptees coming and searching for their birth family. Yet, to come out of the cloak of secrecy is a major thing that few can do.

One young man, adopted, related how when Australia changed laws giving permits to search and open records, that his birth mother wrote a letter to his adoption agency. He then responded and met his birth mother 14 years ago. THIS IS AN INTERESTING IDEA FOR KOREA. The KWB knows of some stories where adoptees or birth family have left letters and reunion sometimes takes place.

One mid-wife of 50 years has her own stories of babies still born and disposing them in waste baskets. She has been plagued with guilt. She has found some level of redemption and forgiveness in religion.

ON THIS NOTE: Even after ‘discovering’ one’s birth parents a new chapter opens up, with challenges for all. It is recorded that only 2,500 Korean Adoptees have had reunion with birth family. NOT all Reunions are happy stories, with some still cloaked in shame and embarrassment. This is a difficult course of action, costly in coming to South Korea, difficulty in communication, cultural misunderstanding. Yet, some of us WANT to do this, OTHERS may not want to upset their own Adoptive Family. It is a difficult choice for some, some may not want to find their birth mother/father/family. Each must deal with these questions in their own way.

In Korea we also hear mothers who have stories like this. The other ‘Shades of Gray’ of the Spectrum are across the board. ALL of these stories are personal and valid, though anecdotal they give only some snapshots. If someone were to make some kind of mathematical extrapolations they could invent Percentages- but the TRUTH is that there is NO definitive SURVEY of all the cases.

Yes, even in Korea there are cases on one extreme but also on the other. ALL CASES MUST BE CONSIDERED, Abuses must be stopped, such as the continued SECRET Adoptions. The coming Revisions of the Special Laws on Adoption are reported to combine all CIVIL CODE LAW Adoptions with Domestic (through Adoption Agencies) and InterCountry Adoption under the Hague Convention guidelines.

Let’s try to keep a BALANCED view of This Thing of Ours-Adoption.

Today is the Harvest Moon celebration of Korea called Chuseok. Think of your Korean roots today, contact an adoptee friend and tell them Happy Chuseok!!

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Sam for your comment. Please let me know if you have a blog link.

    ReplyDelete

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