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 8, 2010

“In Defense of Adoption” Stephen Morrison Part 4

Steve Morrison is an adoptee and the founder of the Mission to Promote Adoption in Korea (MPAK), which was created to bring about positive changes in the Korean adoption culture since 1999. For more information, or to contact MPAK, visit: www.mpak.com or mpakusa@gmail.com.
Part 4

Stephen Morrison "In Defense of Adoption" Korean Quarterly, fall, 2010
Birthmothers’ Rights vs. Children’s Rights
“Adoptees are not the only ones voicing opposition to adoption. Korean nationals have also voiced opposition to ICA. One in particular who is heavily involved in the anti-adoption campaign publicly remarked that adoption is a form of child abuse. They do not understand why ICA continues to this day, now that Korea is experiencing the 15th largest economy in the world.”
What they fail to realize is that the size of the economy has very little to do with people’s attitudes and hearts towards homeless children. Koreans can be proud of their riches and economic progress, but that doesn’t mean their hearts are more open to orphans. So it is a baseless argument to advocate for the closure of ICA simply because the country is better off economically.”
(The KWB concurs that changing Laws does not change Hearts, and frequently those who think that Stopping ICA will somehow “solve” the problems and change the attitudes of the Korean Society to more acceptance of Unwed Mothers/Single parenthood. Actually, the increase in financial security in the middle class has led to More domestic adoptions, though again 95% of both Civil Code Law and so-called Domestic adoptions are kept SECRET because of the STIGMA and PREJUDICE of society. “Falling on Deaf Ears” the indignant, scolding, and ‘you ought to be ashamed’ cries DO NOT WORK, plain and simple.)
“Adoption Industry” Accusations

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This is from a SOUTH Korean Orphanage. These tots were Not Adopted by Korean nationals, and may grow up in other facilities until they are 18 years old, then OUT on their own.
“A review of anti-adoption blogs or writings in the media reveals that these writers strongly suspect that adoption agencies are in it for the business or that adoption is promoted by the agencies just to stay in business. The claims are that, to maintain their businesses, the agencies all use the phrases such as “It is better for children to be in homes abroad than to live in the institutions in Korea” to solicit sympathy and support from the Korean public. They claim that this is in opposition to the agencies’ true motive to stay in the business and that if the agencies are truly interested in the children’s welfare, they should make every effort to find ways for birth families to keep their children, and pressure the Korean government to expand the foster care services and group homes using adoption as a last resort.
Some of what they claim is true; I disagree on a couple of key points. While it is true that the agencies and the government should try their best to enable birth families to stay together and look for solutions to enable birthmothers to raise their own children, I disagree that adoption should be a last resort, as they recommend. Adoption should be the second alternative to birth family preservation. Foster care, group homes and institutionalization should be used as a last resort.”

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Older boys that are almost impossible to adopt NOW.
 Quota system prevents older children to escape.
   (The KWB strongly agrees with Mr. Morrison that First should always be Family Preservation if at all possible with strong advocacy for Unwed Mothers support in more facilities such as Daycare and increase in education allotments. Domestic adoption should be Second BUT here the KWB feels that more Adoptive Parents must be made aware that the child has the right to be told later that they were adopted. The Loss and Abandonment that even newborns experience MAY cause developmental problems as the child grows up. Many adoptees who have discovered late in their lives that they had been adopted suffered surprise even shock when they had confirmed what many had suspected all their lives. Late Discovery Adoptees has many stories of the trauma they experience when the truth is hidden from them all their lives. The KWB has met now over 12 Domestic Adoptees, most of which learned by mistakes or overheard from others their origins.)
I also strongly disagree with the contention that adoption agencies are all in adoption work for business purposes only. After having worked very closely with many adoption agencies in Korea as well as in the U.S. for many years, the agencies I know of are in adoption services for humanitarian purposes. They are sincerely interested in the well-being of children. They also know that of all types of social programs available for children; nothing except for adoption can enable children to have families of their own, even if that means a family in another country.
The foster care system in the U.S. has been a failure, with children moving from one home to another on an average of eight moves per child before age 18. Korea is not spared from this. However, foster care can sometimes lead to adoption, and this should be encouraged. (Increasing numbers of Foster Care children in USA are being adopted, as regulations have been eased, enabling more Parents that HAVE been willing to do so.) Group homes are even worse, because there is no commitment of a parent-child relationship in temporary care. Group homes are essentially mini-orphanages with five or six children being cared for by adults who receive funding from the government.
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This is not from North Korea but the SOUTH. Some 280 institutions are crowded with
children that most Real Koreans DON'T WANT because they will only take infants. Those adoptions are
 95% kept SECRET- due to society's continuing prejudices and shame against Adoption.

No one would argue that it is better for children to grow up in institutions than to be adopted. (KWB: Actually though SOME Anti-Adoption Adoptees Associates DO argue this very regretable thing. Some of them are struggling to regain their childhood and become “Korean” again. After several years of language study though, many find continuing rejection by the majority of REAL Koreans, who question their pronunciation, understanding of culture,etc. and simply DO NOT accept them. "Marry my daughter/son? OH ANIO!" REALITY CHECK, they will never find totally the Lost Years, but should just deal with it, accept what CAN be and what CAN NOT BE.) Further, in all of these childcare methods only one, adoption, can supply the child with a child’s most basic right ---- their right to their own family. When a homeless child is barred from an opportunity to have his own home, this is a greater child abuse than any alleged “abuse” that may occur because the child is adopted.
(The KWB notes: Korea has now started Foster Care, oh wonderful, by increasing FOSTER CARE in Group Homes, where 4-5 children stay with a ‘caretaker’ many times a single elderly woman, children are denied a family. So we have orphanages where children grow up because they were NOT adopted in the PRIME time-Under 12 months old. Foster Care in USA has not worked! Often children average 8 different ‘homes’ and never have the sense of being a member of a Family. THIS SUCKS! This System has only recently been started in Korea about 2005. SOME would say ‘how wonderful that the child keeps their Korean heritage and language’…OH, YEAH? To become a second or third class citizen. Oh, GEE, how awesome or rather how awful will their life be with less chance for education as Stephen has pointed out.)
The anti-adoption factions in Korea have used the cause of birthmothers’ rights to speak against ICA, as well as against domestic adoption. Because they claim that adoption causes the separation of a child from the birthmother, they use the phrases such as “Family Preservation over Adoption Promotion to make their points known. However, in their zeal to put an end to adoption by advocating birthmothers’ rights, they have focused more on birthmothers, not on the rights of children.

I believe that, while birthmothers’ rights should be advocated, it is wrong to do so by trampling on children’s rights to their own homes and families. Birthmothers are adults who have voices, and they can make certain choices for themselves, whether good or bad. But the children have no voice. Many adoptees have spoken out to advocate for their own rights and the rights of birthmothers’, but very few have chosen to speak for the rights of children to have their own homes.”
Part 5 coming soon.
The Korean War Baby challenges those in leadership of GOA’L (Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link-SG James Rosso (A.K.A. Kim Yoo Shin) and VSG Isaac Tufvesson), A.S.K. (Adoptees Solidarity Korea- Kim Stoker) and T.R.A.C.K. (Truth and Reconciliation for Adoptees Korea – TRACK HAS made public efforts to say they are NOT against ICA), and KoRoot (Rev. Kim Do Hyun) to make responding comments on these points made by Stephen Morrison.
Please respond by email to answer and state clearly your positions and beliefs. Or reply on your websites and send the KWB the Link. Most leaders have been sent already, by the KWB, the complete PDF files of “In Defense of Adoption”  so they can read in detail.

SO PLEASE, let’s have Adoption Discourse and give us CLARIFICATION on your organization’s positions on these complex issues. Personally, The Korean War Baby has a Multi-Tiered approach to this that follows the Hague Convention guidelines and considers the Rights of the Child and the Birthfamily.
First- He does defend  and promotes Family Preservation WHEN IT IS POSSIBLE or DESIRED BY THE MOTHER;
Second - It should be a priority for Ethnic Koreans in Non-Secret (to the Adopted one) adoptions both here In-Country or among the Korean Diaspora (The Child has the Right to know that they are adopted. Parents must be encouraged and given guidelines in HOW to do this, plus awareness of the possible difficulties that their child may have in Attachment Disorders. None of this is done now.); 
Third - Next group would be any KAD married to another KAD or a spouse of any ethnicity for they HAVE a personal understanding of adoption; 
Fourth -a Transracial/cultural adoption to a family that is throughly vetted and given support on InterCountry Adoptions. (NO Single parent adoptions, or gay/lesbian 'parent', because even though a family might go through divorce, a child has the right to have a Family first.) THAT is my Multi-tiered plan.

Discourse and discussion can be helpful to many involved in This Thing of Ours-Adoption out in cyberspace, to examine the various positions and compare each argument for themselves. Adoptive Parents are also welcome to share their own views and experiences with their blended families. You Adoptees, whether Korean or other TransCultural/ethnic adoptees are also welcome to share.
Speak up, let us hear your voices on these matters, especially I reach out to all members of the community of KADLinks (Korean ADoptees Living in Korea) who are members of some of these groups AND those just Living in Korea. Give us YOUR VOICE.
 "WE CAN’T HEAR YOU…What SAY YOU?"

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