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.


August 5, 2011

Aein Hope / oki tokki

Interview from HalfKorean.com

IMG_3656

David Sanders of HalfKorean.com at recent picnic for anyone of MixKor heritage and interest in things Korean.

LINK Here to HalfKorean interview:    Aein Hope / oki tokki

Oki tokki (오키토끼) is a Los Angeles, California-based handmade jewelry and accessory line by Aein Hope.

Founded in 2010, oki tokki specializes in making products that represent a love for the Korean language and culture.

HalfKorean.com had a chance to discuss with Aein about her background and oki tokki.

Hey Aein, so what is your mix?
My mother is Korean and what we know of my father’s heritage is that he’s Scottish/German, but my sister and I want to one day really map our family tree to find out more.

Where you born, raised and currently live?
I was born and raised in Georgia! I lived there for pretty much my entire life, living on biscuits & gravy, fried chicken, BBQ and delicious Korean food made by my mother. I moved out to Los Angeles six years ago and I’m still here, loving every minute of it… but the search for LA’s perfect biscuits & gravy is still ongoing.

Do you speak Korean?
My mother taught me the basics of Korean and sent me to Saturday Korean school for awhile. I learned how to read and write 한글 (Hangul) and I had a basic understanding of commands- I definitely understood when she wanted me to eat, close the windows or sleep, but I didn’t really know how to make my own sentences. After I moved out to LA I started looking around for Korean classes and began studying at the Korean Cultural Center. I also ended up studying in the Korean program at CSU-LA and abroad for a summer at Korea University. I will always be studying and learning more, but yes, I can speak Korean!

What was your mixed Korean experience like?
As a person of mixed descent, I understand what it’s like not being able to reach both sides of my heritage. There are always those few sentences that relatives tell you when they haven’t seen you in awhile, from, “Oh, you look just like your mother!” to “Ah, you are shaping up just like your father.” From an outsider’s point of view, I may only resemble my mother because of my dark hair, slightly slanted eyes, or perhaps even my button nose. However, I feel within myself a sort of indifference as to what I look like, or to whom I resemble the most. What kind of importance does this have on who I am inside? Why must people look towards outside appearances?

I remember the time when I applied for my driver’s permit when I was 16 and filling the “Race” box proved difficult. I put both of my heritages down and handed the lady my paper. She gave it back to me and instructed me to list only one answer. One answer? Am I not both? “Write down what you look like the most,” she told me. I then went into contemplation of a mental image of myself. People on average consider a person’s ethnicity by what he looks like and ‘hapas’ are usually more difficult to solve. Asians think I look more white, Caucasians think I look more Asian. What am I supposed to think of myself?

Growing up in the South (within the “Bible Belt”), even in my small town there were numerous Korean churches that my mother took me to. There was an immediate, yet unconscious, segregation of us all, between the ‘hapas’ and the full Koreans. The full Koreans never accepted us hapas and we would just huddle amongst ourselves, unwanted by the rest of the community. It saddened me to a point where I made sure I never attended again.

To this day, it continues to amaze me how often I get the question “What are you?” or “Where are you from?” I don’t think people understand how the question “What are you?” can be so hurtful. I was born in the U.S., I grew up here. My sister and I faced a lot of racism and prejudice from all races in our hometown. We’ve heard the “ching chong” thing way too many times as well as probably every racist term created for Asians.

I think it took me a long time to become comfortable with myself and grow out of the hurt, pain and rejection from my youth. It is still a work in progress, but learning the Korean language and more about my heritage has helped me slowly overcome it.

oki tokki:

What is oki tokki and when was it founded/created?
oki tokki is a cute & eco-friendly shop featuring handcrafted, one a kind items designed & made solely be one girl: me, Aein! My goal is to capture one’s love of language & culture and translate it into wearable, shareable art. In 2009, I started scrounging money together for supplies and began to work out my ideas into designs. I officially launched oki tokki in July 2010, but because of extenuating circumstances I had to close the shop for most of 2010 and reopened in January 2011.

How did you come up with the name?
I love trying to think of bilingual puns- I guess it’s like a game for me! I once said “oki dokie” to someone, and then thought- are there any Korean words that would sound similar? The closest I found was “tokki” for the “dokie” so I started saying “oki tokki” instead. I wanted the name for my business to be something related to both of my heritages and decided that funny phrase I came up with earlier would be a perfect fit.

Why did you decide to start oki tokki? Was it a hobby that you decided to turn into a business?
When I was younger, I always wanted things with Hangul on them. Every time my mom took me to a Korean store, I would look around for stickers or anything with Hangul. Later when I went to Korea for study abroad, I looked again for t-shirts or jewelry with Hangul or something distinctively Korean on it, but found mostly t-shirts with Engrish on them! I realized that apparel and accessories featuring 한글 (hangul, Korean writing) were severely lacking–especially ones that are design-oriented and cute, but also eco-friendly & handmade as well. I’ve always thought that art is a great way to learn and teach others about culture & language, so I strive to maintain a positive, educational approach to all of my designs. I love that somewhere else in the world people can not only like my designs, but maybe learn little tidbits about Korean culture or language as well.

Which product/design are you most proud of?
The Sarang Earrings are one of the first earrings I designed from start to finish and it was a very rewarding experience for me as a designer. Also, I love taking traditional Korean folk tales and creating my own spin on it, like the Flower Foxes. Before I wanted to be a designer, I wanted to be a story teller and I get a chance to do both by writing background stories and personalities for my characters!

Which of your products would you consider your most popular?
“Of Course! It’s the Carrot!” tote bags always go very fast and a lot of Sarang Earrings are often bought to be given as gifts for anniversaries or birthdays.

What kind of feedback have you received from your customers?
I think one of my favorite messages was from this lady who bought the Sarang Earrings to wear on a Valentine’s Day date with her husband. Another one would be from a girl who bought the tote bag–she told me that using her bag was a great way to find more people who were interested in Korea as well. I’m so glad that people send in their photos or messages about the products because since I only sell online, I don’t have many chances to actually see people wearing or using the things I’ve made.

Are most of your customers Korean-Americans or is it fairly diverse?
My first customer was actually a woman who adopted a Korean girl; she bought the “Of Course! It’s the Carrot!” tote bag for her child to carry her books for Korean class in, which I think is such a sweet story. I would say that the customers range from Korean Americans to simply people interested in Korean culture or language. I usually receive messages from half Koreans saying that they’re half Korean, too–I think that meeting another half Korean is just so exciting that we always have to let each other know.

What are some of your goals for oki tokki (both short and long term)?
Short term: I want to release more products (especially tees!) and find the time to paint more.
Long term: I would like to reach and interact with more half Koreans. I also want to continue to find new ways to improve my products and find new & better ways to become more eco-friendly with products, packaging and the like.

Okay, got to ask… is Aein Hope your real name?
Most Americans think that my last name is fake, but I’m very proud to be a Hope child. :) As for Aein, most Koreans think it’s fake because it’s 애인, which means lover or darling, however it is my “official” Korean name– however odd it may be. I spell it as 에인 though, to avoid confusion.

Any final words or anything you would like to share with the mixed Korean community?
I am always comforted (and yet, saddened) by the fact that there are so many of us with similar experiences. I love that HalfKorean.com has become an easy and accessible gateway to meet kindred souls. I think we can become stronger through these connections with each other, sharing our stories and finding solace from our friendships. These common bonds will help support us to look past the ignorance we have faced and accept our identity–however we may perceive it.

Thank you to Aein for her time and HalfKorean.com would like to wish her and oki tokki all the best and much success!

For more information, please check out the oki tokki website, Facebook and/or Twitter.

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(Images courtesy of Aein Hope / oki tokki)

oki tokki

 

August 3, 2011

HalfKorean.com Hosts Event for MixKor

MixKor Picnic_Dinner_Karaoke

HalfKorean.com had another event where Mixed Koreans came together to celebrate their differences and commonalities. Check out their FaceBook pages and websites. http://www.halfkorean.com/









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