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.


December 9, 2010

Holt International – China Moon » Blog Archive » Sign Up for Next Summer’s Heritage Tours Today!

Holt International – China Moon » Blog Archive » Sign Up for Next Summer’s Heritage Tours Today!
Adoptees discovering their homeland and heritage
by Robin Munro, senior writer
For Shannon Landry – a 16-year-old Nebraskan girl adopted as a baby from China – life so far has mostly revolved around school and soccer, friends and family. Returning to China rarely crossed her mind, though she thought it would be cool, she says, to see where she was born.
But from the time she turned 10, her mother told her that one day, they would go.
That day arrived this past summer, when she embarked on a two-week tour of China. She expected a cool adventure – an adventure that has since become a lifelong journey.
“I just feel like there’s so much more I could learn about me. Before, I never really thought about it,” Shannon says, “but now that I’ve had the experience, I don’t want to lose it.”
Joining 21 other adoptees and their families, Shannon and her mom, Melanie, traveled to China on a Holt heritage tour. The adoptees – all girls from this country of the one-child policy – explored the land of their birth, together. They climbed the Great Wall and toured the Forbidden City. They learned to cook traditional Chinese dishes, studied calligraphy and honed their chopstick skills. On a cruise down the Li River, they saw cormorant fisherman and water buffalo. They traveled to a panda reserve, where some even held these squirmy, soft-furred vegetarians, subdued by honey on the paw. They biked and cruised and climbed through China, ending where they began their adoption journey – at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, the southern city home to the American Consulate, where all adoptive families secure their child’s visa.
But for many of the girls, the most meaningful part of the trip occurred on separate journeys – journeys to their finding places, their orphanages and foster families. Here, they found a connection to their past.
…..
Holt heritage tours are designed for adoptees and their families to experience the customs, culture and history of their birth country. Central to the tour philosophy is the adoptee’s personal story, and personal journey. To recreate this story, Holt strives to coordinate visits to adoptees’ orphanages and reunions with foster families, whenever possible.
Seeing the places and people significant to their adoption story also helps clarify, for many of the girls, why they were adopted. “It hit,” says adoptive mom Colleen Koester. “Wow, this is the building I lived in. This was the kind of situation I was in.”

On a heritage tour to Korea, Holt’s adoptee outreach director, Courtney Rader, had a similarly eye-opening experience. “It made me appreciate being adopted and where I came from,” she says. Growing up, she explains, she heard stories of what her life would have been like had she not been adopted. “Going to historical sites and museums in Korea gives a glimpse of what it was like when adoption was at its peak.”
Led by experienced Holt staff and professional tour guides, these two-week summer trips are open to any adoptee – not just Holt adoptees – ages 8 and older for China. For Korea, all ages are welcome. Adoptees over 18 may also travel on the Korean heritage tour alone, without a guardian.

Even the adoptive parents forge a special bond on the tour. “These other adoptive families have been through the same experience you’ve been through – the same emotions, the same understanding,” says Colleen. “These people can relate.”
For both Melanie and Colleen, another highlight was the chance to learn the little details of their daughters’ early lives in China – to learn that Hannah ran around a lot as a toddler, and Shannon was always “in the know” at the orphanage. And to observe their daughters reconnect with their past. “The highlight for me was how much [Shannon] got out of the experience,” says Melanie. To meet those who cared for her affirms the love and nurture she received before being adopted. “That is a really important connection for a child – to know that they were loved,” she says.
The sights visited, the memories created, the bonds forged, all amount to a monumental experience in the life of both adoptees and their families.
“What I would tell anybody who’s contemplating going is that it’s an absolute must,” says Colleen. “It was so worth it and so much more than I expected.”
Join one of next summer’s heritage tours today!
*****************************************************************************
The Korean War Baby Notes: This is the other side of the Spectrum of adoption stories, the greater majority of KADs have all sorts of different attitudes on their adoption. Each has to go through the stages of life, like dealing with their discovery finally that:
BadHairDay_ 
“What? I ain’t WHITE?”
Well, most of us have positive outlooks. If you read some of the blobs out in cyberspace you might get the idea that instead there are many WHINERS out there.
KADs who just cannot deal with the fact that THEY WERE NOT WANTED by their “People”, most birth fathers, most bio-families. BUT, though their mother may have wanted them (She did NOT Abort them and that IS the choice of 4,000 Korean Unwed mothers Daily in 2007! I would consider that somehow LUCKY to be ALIVE).

The circumstances our mothers found themselves, in forced them to make the decision to give us up, but the Whiners fiercely accuse the adoption agencies and even Adoptive Parents. Whazzup wid dat? I mean, PLEASE, examine the various causes over the years, decades, and you see ever changing reasons. War Babies, mixed-blood and 'double' orphans, Abandoned babies and children left in public places, children surviving on the streets, these reasons changed to Social rejections of too many girls, broken marriages, some poor families gave up the youngest but financial is NOT the reasons they are given up since the late 1980's. IT CONTINUES to be Social stigmas against single unwed mothers, adoption is considered a black mark of uncertain heritage by 80% of the people. Why every article you read, if you do, on unwed mothers tells of their own families rejecting them, demanding abortion or adoption, though there are more and more cases demonstrating some change. 
Even in the 21st century two out of three Korean women are STILL choosing to give up their babies rather than abort them, unable to make the very difficult decision to raise by themselves. HEY that is good change, but it ain't 100% yet, is it? That might come in another twenty years...



Unwed Mothers who ARE KEEPING their babies are increasing over the last decade from 11% to 37%. The Glass is One Third full.



This is the Inconvenient TRUTHS.


Whaaa! I was adopted from my homeland!!


Some of you Anti-Adoption bloggers distort the truth, scream "crime" because of being transracially adopted, some call yourself “stolen” when you were in fact “Discarded, Abandoned” (Bari Gong Ju- Abandoned Princess) for being a FEMALE, HELLO? Until recently 70% of Overseas adoptions were GIRLS, changing only now to become 65% of Domestic adoptions being female...because Koreans adopt secretly and GIRLS don’t matter on issues of inheritance of the family name. UGLY reality but this is the damn truth. Prof. David Smolin has done scholarly work on the abuses and faults of the International Adoption system and I concur with fixing these. Prof. Smolin encourages that Adoption Discourse be focused not on Pro or Anti Adoption discussions, rather he has stated and published his viewpoint at the IKAA Gathering that he is NOT against continuing InterCountry Adoptions ONLY fixing the loopholes that MAY allow corrupt sending countries in Child-Laundering through adoption. We got to concur with that too!!.

But some PROFESSORS don’t seem to know these facts, and others ignore them. Perhaps we could ask 'soon to arrive in Korea' Prof. Eli Park Sorensen, or Prof. Kim Su Rasmussen, another shining light in the KADLinK community. Please share your profound insights on these weighty matters, hmmm? (The KWB sends them lots of documents from KWDI (Korean Women's Development Institute) to keep them up with the F*cking Truth instead of relying on spurious webblogs. Hey, you both claimed to have had a great plan last January, 2010, that you both presented at the A.S.K. dinner, seems like you wanted to "take over by democratic means GOA'L" or something like that. What was that all about, eh? What exactly ARE you views on adoption?)

I am DO NOT consider myself “lucky” to be adopted, neither am I sobbing about my ‘lost culture and language’. One cannot UNDO the Past, instead The Korean War Baby and many others, fight for the changes that need to happen HERE for the rights of Mother and Child. But reality wacks you upside the head, you cannot change the hearts of the people, only remind them that YES, I AM BACK. I will be in the FACE OF MY MOTHER’S PEOPLE, advocating for both the Unwed mothers and children who NEED A FAMILY and HOME. Whining about it doesn’t help, and blaming your adoption as though you were “stolen from Korea” is about as stupid as wishing you were born something else.
DEAL WITH WHO YOU ARE, FIND YOUR IDENTITY.
STOP THE WHINING.
For all you who WHINE and MOAN on your blogs of doom and gloom, blaming the ills of life on 'being adopted'; those who consider being “Lucky” a horrible thing, you NEED to take a chill pill, look at the reality on THIS END, here in your ‘Motherland’.
You were rejected by your Society, your mother’s family may have thrown her out or threatened her if she did not Abort or Give up for Adoption. This is the TRUTH, the reality we must deal with that our lives were for the most part BETTER than living in this land. Think about that when you consider your life.

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