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 28, 2010

“My Mongolian Mother”

Best Film from PIFF, in my opinion-

"My Mongolian Mother"

Asian Media "My Mongolian Mother" TRAILER

The Korean War Baby thinks this was one of the best films. Dealing with the complex issues facing the Communist Party decisions were made that made sense at the time. In the '60s China experienced severe drought and famine that killed millions. Thousands of children were single and double orphans, or just abandoned by their destitute family members that survived but were unable to feed them. The State sent 3 thousand orphans from the streets of Shanghai to Inner Mongolia, to be adopted into the Nation. One group traveled by train to a community of simple herdsmen.


One of the central characters, Fu Sheng narrates his and other orphans stories, of their upheaval and loss of family. They find themselves packed onto a train, an orphan train on a long one way trip away from the city of Shanghai to the grassland Steppes. The film does not blame the system but explores the consequences and trials of some older children adjusting to such a complete change of life. For Fu Sheng it takes a while before he chooses to accept his Mongolian Mother.



The children are assembled in groups and the simple herdspeople go among them, choosing the children by affinity, children and parents drawn together. Everything is well documented by the community council though. Even the reasons for adopting was processed and carefully decided for the well-being of the children. (It seems that the Communist Party also supported the 'institution of adoption' as a solution to the social problems caused by the great famine.)

DSC08072 The boy's birth mother had been forced to tricked him, then left him alone in the open market. He was confused, fearful, and shocked, realizing that she did this on purpose. He is turned over to policemen and then into an orphanage run by the State.

How many other young children harbor such deep wounds and have turned inward their pain and suffering into both suicidal, or outward in pent up rage. The older a child is at the moment of abandonment, the more intense the effects and though memories are often suppressed later and even forgotten, the wounded child within may continue to be affected all their lives.
"I forgot my fears and longed to enter into their arms." In the one important key sequence, the film shows Grandma singing a song to calm the baby lamb, who's own mother had been killed by wild animals, to accept milk from another mother sheep who must ‘adopt’ it. It demonstrated to the boy his own condition, that the lamb was like him, it had lost its own mother and when the lamb finally begins to suckle, the analogy hits him hard. The boy sees himself in the situation and has an epiphany moment. "I was moved by the sound of her voice" laments the boy. The boys rushes to his Mongolian Mother, embracing her finally with acceptance. This film was so powerful and touches many issues about Adoption/ searching/ reunion.


Twenty years later, the State begins to reconnect families who want to make contact with children they gave up. China is in the 80's and some families want to welcome back their children. The former orphans must deal with all the hard issues of abandoning their Mongolian identity, adoptive families, and re-enter the fast modern world of Shanghai. Some choose to move to the city, with their birth families, some are unable and hate the indifference and prejudice of Chinese towards them. They 'look' like Chinese but are dressed and act, mentally and socially they are Children of the Mongolian Nation.


For the young man, he visits his birth family (both mother and father) and his adoptive sister, even brother who have moved to the city of Shanghai. He decides though that inside him, he is Mongolian, he will make a decision to go back and be with his adoptive mother. We see some of his friends who are also dealing with these difficult choices.

This film is NOT Pro-adoption nor is it Anti-adoption but rather explores social issues that are just as valid for any cross-cultural adoption. Watch for it coming to your city in a Film Festival.

I was moved to tears many times during this powerful movie that expresses so much the Korean Adoptees own experiences in all of the Spectrum of stories, a plethora of pain but also of Love. We see many aspects of both Birth family and Adoptive family faced with the issues of Searching, Reunion, Adoption Identity. GOT TO GET SEE IT.

The Korean War Baby TOTALLY ENDORCES “My Mongolian Mother”. FIVE STARS

3 comments:

  1. I look forward to this film.

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  2. Oh this sounds very intriguing. We don't live in the states but maybe it will come out eventually on DVD. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Thanks for commenting, yes, do try to see it. What is really interesting is the official Chinese planning of the entire event, even the reunions were worked out by the State.
    They do touch on many of the difficulties that face adoptees on whether to search or not, how to deal with reunion, adoption identity, etc.

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