THIS THING OF OURS-ADOPTION
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.
July 3, 2011
Reunion is a Journey
Last May 1st, 2010, the Korean War Baby had the honor and previlege of assisting in helping to find the birth family of a young Korean Adoptee. It was only through a long process in which Adoption agencies, orphanage, InKas, and many others gave their time, energy, efforts, to help bring about a reunion. The KWB did not do this alone, rather he just helped bring things along, learning about all the personal issues that are involved in this emotional journey. Last year, things worked out that on the exact day of Kelly's 30th birthday, she heard from her birth family as they sang happy birthday in both English and Korean languages. These photos are from May 1st, 2011, when the KWB and his wife Nancy traveled down again to connect Kelly on Skype with Young Nam, her oldest brother, her birth mother and father. We were able to interview them on exactly WHAT happened years ago, to answer a question we did not know, WHY were they give up? Video was also taken as the family tearfully explained the tragic circumstances surrounding those events.
Through the year Kelly and her sibling have had to deal with all the complex issues that only a few KAD's have to face, joining only 2,400 who had made contact with birth family in Korea. All the issues are being faced by their Adoptive Family, Birth Family, and both siblings. Kelly's last name must remain secret at this time, since the other sibling has NOT chosen to proceed. These things happen, especially with an older child who may harbor more pain, resentment, feelings of anger, loss and abandonment. This is to be expected with some even at the age of three or four. Adoption professionals have found that even at the separation at birth some adoptees have Attachment Disorders with their adoptive families.
Reunion with birth family is never easy, frought with an emotional rollercoaster and challenges. Kelly may soon take the step to visit them, and is writing on her experiences. We hope that she and her sibling, her entire Adoptive Family and the Birth Family continue on their journey of life.
With recent cutbacks on Post Adoption Services and Birth Family Searches, organizations such as GOA'L (Global Overseas Adoptee's Link), InKas (International Korean Adoptees Services), and even the four major Adoption Agencies, will NO LONGER be able to assist Korean Adoptees very well. We must find a way though to continue this function, which is vital to many Adoptees. Again, though not all KAD's are ready for extensive searching, such as newspaper articles and television show appearances. Many who come first on 'motherland tours' or their own visits can find the Adoption Agencies online, request files in advance before arriving. There are proceedures that you may find on the many websites (Search on my blog for the name of your adoption agency for a link, or just google them).
Yes reunion is a long process, one that requires much patience, open mind, open heart. Be sure to talk with everyone in your family about even beginning a search, as in Kelly's case things moved very quickly. Read all you can about the issues, from many different sources. Be prepared for the unexpected, drawing back at times, confusion, testings, and many other pitfalls. But we can learn so much from others sharing their feelings and experiences of their own. We look forward to hearing from Kelly, when she is ready to share. Are YOU considering searching? Push forward with bated breath and we all hope you may have a 'successful reunion'.