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 15, 2010

POV - In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee | PBS

The Korean War Baby supports the telling of our stories, no matter what the details may be- as each story is both unique and yet similar to others. What is important is to keep in mind that one story does not represent ALL, as there are a wide ranging spectrum OR even 'Shades of between Black and White.

Multiple Shades are Gradations-There is no 'Black or White' or 'Happy Vs. Bad Adoptions" rather Gradations of stories, emotions, experiences.
 
Balance is the Key to Life indeed!


Actually only a few stories have been made into books and films, but Adoption Discourse (thanks Prof. Smolin) has increased as KAD's have reached out to each other. This Thing of Ours-Adoption has barely been researched yet, with surveys of Korean Adoptees rarely exceeding more than a few hundred.


 It is a strong movement though to study, what I hope is that all aspects and experiences are included, not just the sad, mad, lucky, saved, etc. CATCHWORDS that get thrown about by many. Shouldn't we try to have Balance?



Deann Borshay Liem gives us her personal own story as she searches to find the answers. I have met and did a small interview with her when she was doing some documentary work. I have seen both films and they are powerful, well done documentaries of her story.


Yet there are thousands of stories that have yet to be told. We must remember that not all were her story, nor should we use one story to make up figures and numbers. Many who will never know exactly “Why was I given up” may never have their questions answered. Some adoptees don't even WANT to search as the are concerned with all the 'can of worms' several adoptees have related to me would be opened.

As an older child Deann knew the truth and her quest for Cha Jung Hee is out there, somewhere. Perhaps, someday she will be ‘found’, for even the woman in the film may or may not be the real Cha Jung Hee (Oops, spoiler). Read, watch, learn, if that is what you need to do. Each of us must reach our own comfort level.

Korean War Baby
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See Trailer: POV - In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee | PBS
PBS Broadcast: September 14, 2010
Check local listings »firstpersonplural_480
Online: September 15, 2010 through October 15, 2010
Synopsis
Her passport said she was Cha Jung Hee. She knew she was not. So began a 40-year deception for a Korean adoptee who came to the United States in 1966. Told to keep her true identity secret from her new American family, the 8-year-old girl quickly forgot she had ever been anyone else. But why had her identity been switched? And who was the real Cha Jung Hee? In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee is the search to find the answers, as acclaimed filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem (First Person Plural, POV 2000) returns to her native Korea to find her “double,” the mysterious girl whose place she took in America. A co-production of ITVS in association with the Center for Asian American Media and American Documentary/POV.
Watch the Interview of Deann!
http://www.pbs.org/pov/chajunghee/video_interview.php
Interview
Filmmaker Deann Borshay Liem talks about being haunted by an identity that was never hers, walking in someone else's shoes and whether the Cha Jung Hee that she finds in the film is the "real" Cha Jung Hee.

 
POV: In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee is the second of two autobiographical films you've made about your adoption. The first film, First Person Plural, aired on POV in 2000. Can you refresh our memory of First Person Plural and talk about how you came to make In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee?
Deann Borshay Liem: First Person Plural tells my story of being adopted by an American family. I was adopted by Arnold and Alveen Borshay from Fremont, California, when I was about 8 years old. When they adopted me, they thought I was a girl named Cha Jung Hee and that I was an orphan. I also grew up thinking that I was Cha Jung Hee and that I was an orphan. But when I was grown up, I discovered that I had a birth family in Korea. First Person Plural follows the journey of discovering the existence of my birth family, meeting my birth family and taking my adoptive parents to Korea for a meeting of the two families. It explores my relationship to both families, my sense of divided loyalties and divided identities and the paradox of living in two different worlds, being pulled in two different directions.
As for making In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee, I had always been curious and haunted by this identity that was never mine. Over the years, Cha Jung Hee has always been in the back of my mind. She was a girl I never knew; she was someone who apparently was at the orphanage with me, but someone I had never met. To this day, I have her identity, her birth date, her name and her legal papers. The clothing I was wearing when I came to the United States was hers; the shoes that I wore were hers. I have all the letters that she had written to my adoptive family from Korea. So in In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee I go back to Korea to look for her, to put this matter to rest once and for all.
In the film, I meet a number of women named Cha Jung Hee, and through the process I explore the history of international adoptions from Korea and uncover the deceptions and lies that took place within the process of my adoption. I also explore memory, amnesia and what it means kind of to live someone else's life.
POV: The shoes that you wore on your arrival to the United States and that you kept your whole life are one of the strongest symbols in In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee. They play a major role in the film, triggering memories and becoming a part of this lost history. Can you talk about the role of those shoes?
Liem: When I came off the plane in America as an 8 year old, I was wearing these shoes that didn't fit me. They were long and narrow, whereas my feet were short and wide. My adoptive mother couldn't figure out why the shoes didn't fit me properly, because she had bought them according to the tracings of Cha Jung Hee's feet. Well, it turned out I wasn't Cha Jung Hee, so that's why they didn't fit.
The shoes have always been with me. Whenever I've moved to a different house, I've always taken with me baggage that included Cha Jung Hee's clothes and her shoes and all these documents and things. The shoes, in a literal fashion, represented walking into her life — I literally walked into the life that she would have had. In this film, I wanted to find the real Cha Jung Hee and give back her shoes and all her letters and be free of this identity.
My actual journey turned out to be a bit different. But the shoes are symbolic: They represent how any of us might have had a different life. What are the possibilities of living someone else's life or walking in someone else's shoes?
POV: There's a bit of ambiguity at the end of the film about whether you find the woman you're seeking. Do you think it matters whether or not you find the "real" Cha Jung Hee?
In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee: Cha Jung Hee Ulsan and Deann Borshay Liem
Cha Jung Hee Ulsan and Deann Borshay Liem. Photo by Bonhae Ku.
Liem: I do think that the woman I meet at the end of the film is Cha Jung Hee, the one I've been looking for, although there is some ambiguity about that, in part because she herself isn't entirely sure. Many of the facts about her adoption match [information about] the person I was looking for, yet some things don't match. In the end I've come to realize that there were untruths involved not only in my adoption, but in other children's adoptions as well. Cha Jung Hee served as a kind of template; she became a kind of ideal orphan. She was a marketing vehicle that was geared to the desires of adoptive parents abroad, and facts were made up to suit those desires.
For me, it does matter whether the woman I met was the "real" Cha Jung Hee, but in the end I discovered that it wasn't so much about finding her, that it was really more about finding myself. I had to wade through the layers of who I thought I was and embrace my life in the United States.
POV: In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee is one of three films that POV is broadcasting this year about adoption. What are your feelings about international adoption?
Liem: Every situation is different, but I think it's best when a child can be raised in a family, preferably in his or her native country. In Korea specifically, it's probably no longer necessary to have a huge number of international adoptions and they should stop.
International adoption is often seen as the first choice in a situation. And I don't think it's the best first choice. When there are various possibilities, the first choice ought to be to keep families together — whether it's a single mother or a single father or a grandmother raising a child. The first priority, in terms of policy, should be to create opportunities within the country to keep those families intact.
POV: Ultimately, what is In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee really about for you?
Liem: The film is a journey to find the real Cha Jung Hee and, through that process, work through this case of mistaken identity. Meeting all the Cha Jung Hees in Korea really enabled me to imagine my own life if I had stayed in Korea. So in part it's an attempt to walk in their shoes and discover who I might have become. At the same time, I wanted to explore my own adoption, the ethics of adoption, international adoption and my own experiences with memory, identity and adoption.
I wanted to explore the personal impact of living a lie. I've had Cha Jung Hee's identity for more than 40 years. It's been eating away at me for all these years, and it has impacted who I've become. So this additional layer in the film looks not only at the impact of carrying this person's identity on myself and my relationship with my adoptive family, but also the way in which memory and amnesia have played a role in how I've resolved that history and come to understand that history.

Special UPDATE: now available on DVD at http://www.mufilms.org/buy-dvds/
IF you live in USA or perhaps Europe Check for Steaming, er, Streaming Video on PBS. Look HERE:

http://video.pbs.org/video/1588661161 
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Well, there you have it the whole truth, complicated as it may be. The issues are complex, the solution are also, with cultural, social, personal viewpoints of Koreans changing but ever so slowly. One comment I will make is that Korean people, our mothers/fathers people will have to CHANGE their HEARTS and MINDS on the issues of supporting Unwed Mothers to keep their children, they will have to change LAWS but that does not change the attitude of Korean Society.
We see the difficulties of the Unwed Mothers with KUMSN (Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network) and of their stories as they bravely tell all to the society. In IKAA we heard the voice of just one of the 50 members, yet there are thousands of women who have kept their babies. It is the pressure of society that prevents more to keep their babies. We must understand all the equations involved in This Thing of Ours-Adoption.
Someday perhaps Deann could help the KWB do his own story…hmmm.
Also, check out the website, HERE: http://www.mufilms.org/

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