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 23, 2010

Stephen Morrison-“In Defense of Adoption” Korean Quarterly

Stephen Morrison "In Defense of Adoption" Korean Quarterly, Fall, 2010  PDF files on the KWB’s igoogle page.
Part 2
Excepts from “In Defense of Adoption”, published in Korean Quarterly, fall, 2010
Allegations against ICA
Allegations abound against ICA, and somewhat less against domestic adoption. Some groups allege that adoption agencies are engaging in child trafficking, which, if true, would be a criminal act. The idea of child trafficking suggests the adoption agencies have conducted fraudulent activities by forging documents to send children abroad solely for economic gain. While I do not deny that adoption agencies often had to make up adoption documents, I disagree that the intent of the agencies was done to increase profit. If any agency has sent children abroad for financial gain, then its activities are criminal and they deserve our contempt. However, I strongly believe that this was not the case; adoption services in Korea were developed for humanitarian purposes. In seeing the needs of so many homeless children, and knowing the obstacles that lie ahead for them as orphans growing up in a society with strong social stigma against them, adoption advocates have acted responsibly to find better opportunities for children to grow up in loving homes abroad.”
In the old days, it was not unusual for the agencies to accept into their care many abandoned children who arrived with little or no information. In the absence of any information, often children’s names were assigned by the agencies.”
KWB Notes: On a number of websites in the Adoption cyberspace one will find strongly “implied and exaggerated claims” that suggest from their point of views that somehow Adoption is the “Great Satan” of life. Some have even publically claimed that 80%, yes, 80% of KAD adoptees who have come to GOA’L have had “Falsification of their documents beyond wrong Date of Birth”. At the recent IKAA Gathering in Seoul last August, this was presented with no documentation by T.R.A.C.K. at their session. I would like former Family Search director Mads Them, former staff of GOA’L to confirm these numbers.  Also Sebastian Vanderlinden, the most recent Family Search director to address these claims. Witnesses were shocked and asked how they knew such “facts”. They can attest that the number 80% was indeed spoken by Tobias Hubinette. Such data MUST be investigated thoroughly and not just thrown out there. So, Mads and Sebastian, please give the KWB your personal email and please confirm or give us your own estimates of “Falsified documents”. The KWB will pursue most strenuously, sincerely, and vigorously if these allegations be true. WHY THE HORROR!!!
Hmmm, Stephen comes up with some possible reasons for “wrong data”:
“In addition to names, their date of birth and the place of birth were made up as well. There were many children who had no records at all of their birth origins. Children were found on the doorsteps of orphanages, police stations, markets, clinics, and churches. Some of those children had scribbled notes attached to their clothes with only names and the date of birth, but no other information could be found. It was very typical that children came into orphanage care with little or no information.
I, (Stephen) for one, did not know the date of my birth when I was first admitted into an orphanage at age six; the orphanage director made up a date. He did what he had to do to establish a portion of my identity that was missing. The orphanages and the adoption agencies in care of these children assigned names, birth dates, and other information about the children because having this information was a critical step before they could be adopted, either domestically or overseas. Can this be labeled as document forging? Can this be alleged as child trafficking? Clearly this is not the case.”

KWB Notes: Well!! When you combine this with the presentation at IKAA of the Adoption Agencies on the very same reasons that “Information on a child was made up” we discover WHY. It seems NOT to be understood by Anti-Adoption folks out in cyberspace that you cannot even process a child into FOSTER CARE or INSTITUTIONS without such basic Identity information.

OH, PLEASE, tell us good people, with 30,000 Abandoned, another 37,276 declared DISABLED, and approximately 12,000 MIXED-BLOOD, how many just might have had NO NAME, DOB, POB, etc. So if you as a KAD discover “Oh, my identity was assigned to me, oh boohoo” HELLO?! This was done in order for YOU to have a chance at life! Learn what you can, but remember that you must consider the circumstances of your birth.

Yet, in Korea there are more than our numbers who have been adopted IN FUCKING SECRET. Would you like to be THEM?? Well, probably many of these secret adoptees know that they are different, some have found out but they must stay quiet. They are our ‘cousins in adoption’.  The extreme pressures our mothers who gave birth to us must go through each day. They have not forgotten you- but must deal with the shame, guilt, EVERYDAY. She must keep secret from her present family the little secret of her past. How many watch the television shows and wonder about where you are and how you might think of her? I believe that with all the Adoptees IN-Country and Overseas the number of MOTHERS is close to 500,000! That is HUGE, wrap your mind around THAT.

In many cases your birth father, plus siblings, extended family, MAY also know that you are OUT THERE. Sometimes they don’t give a shit, but most of the time they DO. The stories of Reunions are all across the Spectrum. 

In most cases Birth Mothers gave us up in hope for our future. Keep that next to your heart, next time you wanna whine, because that doesn't help you find healing. Bitching is far more proactive than just whining. Join some of us in complaining and even demanding that the Korean government INCREASE services and financial support for Unwed Mothers who want to bring up their children. EVEN if her own family rejects her, she should/must have that as a viable option beyond Abortion or Adoption.

The KWB wholeheartedly supports the NGO's that are bringing the issues up to the Korean public and government officials to know that every woman must have the option of keeping her child. (He does NOT support stopping ICA or In-Country adoption both Civil and Domestic since it is the WOMAN who must make decision to abort, keep, or give up the life that is growing inside her). A woman HAS the right to CHOOSE, and if she chooses NOT to be a mother, well we must let her do that. She is giving up her "right to motherhood". Counseling for ALL the options should be available to her.  The KWB believes in a Multi-tiered approach to the complexity of This Thing of Ours-Adoption.

We who have been adopted from Korea are a special group of people that includes many nationalities where we were sent. In a sense we are a part of the Korean Diaspora in a unique way. No matter what country you grew up, you may have not 'fit in' because of your being "Asian" and even Mixed-Blood had similar experiences. We are in that sense all "Bananas" you know, Yellow outside White inside. Even if you spend years learning Korean language and culture you are still a mixture of the culture you were raised in and some Koreans will never think of you as Korean. 

SO? Get a grip, know your limits, but go for it! Seek to 'Koreanize' yourself as much as you want, keeping in mind the limitations but to thy ownself be true and to heck with the few who will tell you "You cannot speak Korean very well". Don't get mad, just remember that a new generation of Koreans are actually MORE accepting of us. Even recent polls show that up to 70% of school children think Multi-cultural people in Korea are acceptable to them. THAT IS AMAZING. This shows Korea is SLOWLY CHANGING for the better.

So please, stop just whining that you were adopted. 'Grow a pair', 'suck it up', decide how far you want to go SEARCHING for instance. BE PREPARED for surprises, you might just get what you ask for. THAT may open a whole new thing to deal with. READ, READ, READ many different points of view, keep balanced and compare stories. For those who think, "Woe is me, I are adopted!" HEY, go back to the beginnings, ask yourself "WHY were you given up?" When you were born is very significant to WHY.

Some seem to think that Koreans should be ashamed that ICA continues just because they are now the 14th or 15th ranked country for GNP. For that reason they SHOULD take care of their own. But Koreans are NOT giving up children because of being poor anymore. THIS IS NOT VALID, WHY bring it up? They don't give up children for that reason, so this is a lame, moot, and outdated. The Society and Family however are not yet able to accept unwed motherhood, this is still a taboo. Making laws to encourage domestic adoption has not changed the hearts of the people either, but by presenting the stories of Unwed Mothers could help. Remember that the attitudes toward Unwed Mothers, adoption, foster care, daycare centers, etc. are still comparable to the West, say 20 or 30 years AGO. It will take time to see changes in Korea happen. BUT IT IS HAPPENING, sloooooowly. I will be 'gone' but many of you will see the day that ICA from Korea may cease because there will be no more need for it. THAT AIN'T NOW. (The KWB is sorry but he is a rude and crude, unlettered, proud former Marine, who shoots figuratively from the hip).

The Reasons for children being given up for adoption HAVE CHANGED over each decade, for instance since the late 1980 after the 1988 Olympics, the Republic of Korea (Known by many as South Korea) has tried to stop InterCountry Adoptions because of the embarrassment and shame. They set deadlines for 1995, then extended it again to 2012 after financial crisis in 1998. In the last decade though the average number of children born to Unwed Mothers continues to average 7,500 born each year to UNWED MOTHERS. The number of women keeping their children has increased from 11% to about 33% that shows the changing times and attitudes despite the hardships they must go through. The KWDI has records that in the latest ten year period over 50,000 women KEPT their child. WOW, but double that number GAVE THEM UP. This is the inconvenient truth. 

To those who can only WHINE and PINE, I say 'HEY, GET OVER IT', seek counsel, get strong, BUCK UP, YOU KNOW YOU AIN’T WHITE so MOVE ON. Just deal with it. Go learn Korean Culture but remember you cannot replace the past. You will never, never be a Korean, SO WHAT? You are a unique person and not alone, find support, seek healing and forgiveness, get balance in your life. It is a Never Ending Journey but you CAN DO IT.

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