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.


October 8, 2010

Losing hope in South

Let’s help defectors adapt to new society

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Nearly 20,000 North Korean defectors are living in South Korea. Most of them fled from hunger and oppression under the military dictatorship in pursuit of food and freedom. They risked their lives to realize their South Korean dream. No doubt the defectors have aspired to lead a decent life here.
But a question still remains to be answered: Can they really see their dream come true and do they still have much hope for a future here? It’s not easy to expect a positive answer. The reason is that they face another problem following their arrival in the South. They find it hard to adapt to a capitalist society.

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Losing hope in South

The number of North Korean defectors living here stood at 19,569 at the end of August, a 10-fold increase from a decade ago. Around 42 percent of them work as day laborers with their monthly income amounting to less than 1 million won ($890). As a result, they can hardly meet their minimum living costs. No less than 60 percent of the escapees have to rely on state support for their livelihood.

North Korean defectors have been treated as third-class citizens. They have endured far worse treatment at workplaces than migrant workers from Southeast Asian countries. Some critics point to the defectors’ lack of effort to adjust themselves to the competitive capitalist society. However, the embedded cause of their hardship reflects how closed South Korean society still is to those from outside.

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The Korean War Baby laments that this article again shows the unfortunate attitude of a large portion of Korean Society. Not all, but a majority of Korean people still view “outsiders” with suspicions, fears, prejudice, and just  non-acceptance in general. This is difficult for those considered NOT part of the “WooRi” or the “US/WE” concept that permeates the Confucian social structure of life in present day Korea. Globalization has only brought modern technologies but not YET openness to “outsiders”. With more than 5 percent of the population consisting of “Foreigners/outsiders” Korea needs to continue to change their hearts and minds.

Patience must be maintained as we “help the younger generation” by teaching them, meeting with them in public and private settings. Those who have just arrived may suffer cultural shock but hopefully they will toughen up, buck up, and smile and tell local folks why staring or talking about someone as though they don’t understand Korean is simply RUDE.

North Korean refugees have even attempted to leave the South after finding life here unbearable.

North Korean refugees head for home
By Andrei Lankov

Link Asian Times

Sisa Journal, an influential and well-informed South Korean weekly, recently published interesting statistics. It is well known that some 20,000 North Korean refugees currently reside in South Korea. However, the magazine reports that an estimated 200 of them are not here any more. Surprisingly, they have moved back to the North.

  • a few dozen, perhaps, are North Korea spies who completed their missions and went back to Pyongyang to receive their medals and promotions.
  • those refugees who were disappointed with life in South Korea.
  • some refugees cannot stand the thought of the families they left behind. Many of them move back to reunite with their families.

The returnees are actually treated well in North Korea, used for propaganda purposes of course. But the most disturbing thing is that they and others who escape to other countries pretending to have just escaped the North as in this article:

Long Journey

_41644388_embassy_ap203x A 13-year-old girl gave her father`s letter to a guard in Hamgyeongbukdo at North Korea`s border with China. The guard, perhaps bribed by the girl`s father, told her to wait until nightfall. Several weeks earlier, Oh Hanna`s (not her real name) home was visited by security agents. "They found a bundle of Chinese money and cell phones after searching the house," Hanna recalls.

She remembers that her father, like many others in the town, was engaged in business with China. But possessing foreign currency and a cell phone is a serious crime in the North. The men took her father away for several days.
After her dad returned home safely, he feared for the safety of his family, and he told her: "If you stay here, our whole family will face imprisonment." He gave her a letter and told her to give it to the person in charge at the border near her hometown. That is her last
memory of her father.

When darkness covered the area, the guard pointed a dim flashlight toward the 13heff_184 other side of the river, in China, and let Hanna and her 10-year-old sister cross the Duman, which flows between North Korea and China. It was March, and it was still so cold that the river was frozen. Hanna held her sister`s hand tightly and they started running across the ice toward the lights on the opposite bank. This was the beginning of a long, hard journey.

 

 

However, after only a year in her dream country, she realized that it was a pipe dream. Eight months ago, the sisters fled to the UK, and they now live in Wales as refugees. Why did they risk their lives again to leave South Korea? This is not merely a human rights question. It involves several issues of social and cultural concern, as well as some obstacles to the reunification of the Koreas.

Some North Koreans, like Hanna, leave the South, the country they had fled to at the risk of their lives. The Daily NK, the Seoul based newspaper which specializes in news about North Korea, reported in December 2007 that the number of North Koreans leaving the South for the UK or other countries is increasing.

The Voice of America, the official external broadcasting service of the United States, reported that 245 North Koreans in South Korea moved to the UK between October and December in 2007, adding to a total of 415 North Korean asylum-seekers in the UK last year.

BBC on NK Refugees

North Korean Refugees in China

This Is Korea, TIK, This is why the KWB tells about these prevailing attitudes. For Korean Adoptees and all those involved in This Thing of Ours-Adoption to understand ALL the complex issues that must be sorted through to find balance and truth, even the Inconvenient Truths.

The Korean War Baby

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