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.


January 16, 2011

Adoption Pro and Con Factions

The Korean war baby would like to comment about adoption narratives. In the years since the adoption began from South Korea there have been a growing number of adoption narratives written by Korean Adoptees themselves.  These narratives  have increased with the advent of blogging on the Internet. Anyone who searches on adoption, reunion, international adoption,trans-racial adoption, etc. will find numerous BLOGS, web sites, and information on the subjects. Hundreds of KADs have put their life stories on the world wide web providing others a chance to find out they are not alone in their feelings.

One quickly finds that there are two sides of This Thing of Ours-Adoption, one side is strongly Against Adoption and the other side is strongly For Adoption. The Korean War Baby has found that there are some extremists in each faction. Both sides have some of the truths but not all of it. Extremism in adoption discourse is neither accurate nor helpful. There needs to be a balance, respect towards other’s views, less all inclusive language using qualifiers most of the time.

The Anti-Adoption faction mainly consists of birth or natural mothers, Korean adoptees, and some liberal activists. In the case of birth or natural mothers, they are both Korean and foreign mothers who deeply regret giving up their children for adoption. The Korean adoptees who are Anti-Adoption are not always “angry adoptees”, however, the number of them feel that all their life’s problems were caused by adoption. Some activists, who rightly campaign for the rights of birth or natural mothers, also unfortunately seem to disregard the realities of life.

The Pro-Adoption faction mainly consists of adoptive parents (AP) and adoptees who might be labeled “happy adoptees” by some. Again, it is only the extreme group of adoptive parents and adoptees, not all, nor a majority, who sometimes attack the Anti-Adoption faction. One will find Abusive language used by a few adoptive parents/adoptees against those who are against adoption.

The Korean War Baby feels that both sides need to chill. We cannot have adoption discourse under these war-like conditions. He feels just as strongly that the both sides need to dial it down. Many times he has commented and called for restraint and understanding between all involved. This includes adoptees, adoptive parents and family, and birth or natural parents and family, but also includes all adoption professionals in adoption agencies, government officials, NGOs, even the society of both the sending and receiving countries.

The Korean War Baby has been living in South Korea for fifteen years and being deeply involved in the issues, he has studied all the various arguments. We all agree that there is a plethora or spectrum of stories, viewpoints, attitudes, emotions, etc. There are indeed many who have kept a balanced outlook. This is a very good thing and one wishes that all would follow certain guidelines of civility and prudence.

There are times when the Korean War Baby has used strong words, hyperbole, sarcasm, militaristic language, wit, incredulous outbursts, etc. He has tried to always address his comments to both extremist viewpoints when they do not respect the other side. Some may have misunderstand, some have grossly misinterpreted, his words and cartoonish satire, but they are directed at the ideas and not at all towards the individuals.

He is fervently against those who distort the truths and facts of the situation here in present day South Korea. When some use inaccurate facts and bogus arguments the KWB WILL attack the facts and arguments but is NOT attacking the individuals. When for instance, some are ignorant of current reports from KWDI and MOHWFA that shed new light on these issues related to understanding the Korean society’s attitudes currently...WELL, KWB has gotta set down a challenge for them to prove their points. Frequent requests for Open discussion have been repeatedly ignored however. Calls to KADLinK (Korean ADoptees Living in Korea) groups and individuals to work together on the issues that we agree on, have been likewise totally spurned. When such is the case, discourse cannot take place.

Instead, a very small group of Anti-Adoption activists has overwhelmingly influenced Liberal Socialist Activists and media in Korea to attack the very institution of adoption. They mislead the media to believe that they represent ALL KADs, well, they Don't represent ME! This does not sit well with the Korean War Baby, and he will continue to challenge those who want to stop adoption both domestically and internationally.

The truth is unfortunately the Korean people do indeed adopt children, though it is done secretly because of the shame of infertility or desire to have a son and daughter (Based on this female babies are 65% of the secret adoptions). Though most are never told, many DO find out in shock that they were adopted, overhearing relatives or by blood tests. Don't you think a person should be TOLD that they were adopted, because they will then have most of the thoughts/issues that Transracial International adoptees have PLUS the secrecy issue.

The myth “Koreans don’t want to adopt their own” is WRONG. NGOs and government officials have ignored and hidden the Civil Code Law Adoptions (Court records DO account for the numbers). CCLA at present neither vet the Prospective Adoptive Parents or protect the interest of the child. Hopefully, the Revisions of Adoption Laws will correct this, combining all adoptions under one code of Law. That would be progress towards Korean being able to sign the Hague Conventions.   

There are changing situations in Korea and the slow acceptance by some towards Adoption, Multi-cultural marriage and their Mixed-Blood children, Globalization, prejudices against other races, etc.,  will help to find a balanced viewpoint in the next generation, maybe. Things must take their course, as in the case of Multicultural marriages number over 150,000 and their offspring now number 120,000 SO THE COUNTRY MUST DEAL WITH IT. Everything must be factored into the equation, yes? Until these changes come though, there must be  flexible Mult-tiered solutions.

The Anti-Adoption faction frequently uses language with no qualifiers, accusing sometimes ALL adoptive parents of international adoption of ‘stealing children from their country, culture, language, and mothers’. Other arguments, such as the ‘colonial white privilege’ of adoptive parents is laughable and irrelevant to the broader issues. ‘Rich white people Adopting children of color ‘ is another accusation frequently heard, but it is far from the truth if one knows many other KADs they would dispute That one. Such All Inclusive Statements are considered by the Korean War Baby to be utter nonsense and subject to correction in his colorful and flamboyant ways.

As for the Pro-Adoption faction, he also has strong reservations against those attacking birth or natural mothers and Korean Adoptees as being simply angry. He has spoken out and called for moderation whenever he has seen a post written by an prospective adoptive parent (PAP) that is also guilty of attacking with all inclusive statements towards what they may consider "angry" natural/birth mothers or adoptees. Wanting a family is fine but don’t disparage those who are disillusioned about their own adoption or ‘losing a child to adoption’. Some of their arguments are partly valid, their feelings and emotions we must respect and acknowledge as their own.

We must continue to separate the issues from the individuals, respecting each other even as we may hotly contest the complexities of This Thing of Ours-Adoption.




          

2 comments:

  1. You might be interested in:
    Can Korea shed image of orphan exporter?

    http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2011/01/113_79226.html

    ReplyDelete
  2. You also might be interested to know about the film:

    GEOGRAPHIES OF KINSHIP-THE KOREAN ADOPTION STORY

    http://kimsaebom.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/film-geographies-of-kinship-the-korean-adoption-story-in-development/

    ReplyDelete

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