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.


November 15, 2010

Interview with Top U.S. Official on International Adoptions | Creating a Family

Creating a Family is on FaceBook/blog and full of insights and resources for all. This was posted recently by Dawn Davenport. The Korean War Baby has personal experience with trying IVF method unsuccessfully to create his own family. As an Adoptee from Korea in the First Generation in 1956, he has sought information from many sources, to maintain a balanced and informed view.

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Posted by Dawn - November 12th, 2010 - 2 Comments

Published in * Adoption

The US State Department is in charge of processing international adoptions to and from the US.  The person at the head of this section at the State Department is Susan Jacobs, Special Advisor for Children’s Issues.  Last week, in honor of National Adoption Month, the State Department held a press conference with Ms. Jacobs to discuss the status of international adoptions.  When Ambassador Jacobs talks, those of us who care about international adoption should listen since she is about as high up in the US government as it gets when talking about international adoption.

Interview with Top U.S. Official on International Adoptions | Creating a Family

She did have some interesting insight into the US withdrawing from the international adoption pilot program in Guatemala.  She said: “In terms of the pilot project, every time we asked for details about it, there weren’t any. So it turned out there really wasn’t a pilot project to which – in which we could participate. And in looking at the procedures and regulations that had been put in place, not very much had changed since adoptions had been shut down. So we are trying to work with the Guatemalan Government to help them set in place proper regulations and procedures, and at the same time, close the cases that are in the pipeline. There are hundreds of cases that need to be resolved, so we’ve asked them to focus on that.”

She also addressed an interesting situation that resulted from the evacuation of children from Haiti to adoptive families in the US immediately after the earthquake.  I imagine we all have heard that several children were evacuated that did not meet the strict criteria set up by the State Department.  I have never found the exact number of kids that fit into this category until today—turns out there were twelve.  Considering the chaotic conditions people were working in and the high state of emotions, twelve seems like a relatively small number.

About these twelve cases, Ambassador Jacobs said:

“During the crisis, 12 children were also brought from Haiti to the United States who had not previously been matched with families here. … A delegation from [the US government] traveled to Haiti about four weeks ago to work with the Haitian Government to resolve these cases. …We sent a team down there to meet with the Haitian officials and with the parents of these children, and we expect that these cases will be resolved very soon.  …
QUESTION: Resolved in what way? Will the children go back?
AMBASSADOR JACOBS: Resolved in whether the parents want to relinquish the children so that they can be adopted in the United States or –
QUESTION: So the parents have been identified?
AMBASSADOR JACOBS: Oh, yes. I mean, and the children have – were in contact with their parents throughout this process. …They’re in a very safe, loving atmosphere, …but it’s up to the parents to decide whether or not they want to relinquish these children for adoption. And if they don’t, we will send back the children whose parents want them returned.”

You can read the full transcript or watch a video.

Well, there you have a top official of the US State Department giving updates on the situations on International Adoptions in several “Sending countries”. Focus on Haiti- it seems that after all the chaos during and after the devastating earthquake earlier this year, the State Department has identified only 12 cases that slipped through without proper parental relinquishment papers signed. Only by regulating carefully can separation of birth parents/mothers be prevented from occurring in all cases.

The Korean War Baby agrees with making certain that  US government officials and United Nations NGO’s must strictly enforce the guidelines on International Adoptions to prevent abuses and possible ‘child-laundering’. As long as guidelines are adhered to then and only then should InterCountry Adoption be allowed.

The KWB would prefer that families of ethnicity be at the top of the list…then families with other Trans-racial adopted family members, parents who have already experience and training made available on the issues that their adopted children will face growing up in a blended family. There are resources available for all to “do it better” and perhaps all Agencies could provide courses that Perspective Adoptive Parents must attend to prepare them. Adoption is not the first choice nor the perfect solution, but a loving home is certainly a child’s right as well. We must consider all circumstances before rendering judgments and decisions that will impact all concerned.

Now if corrupt Haitian officials could only focus on the reported cases of Sex Trade across the border to the Dominican Republic!   

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