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 6, 2012

For 50th Anniversary of Holt Ilsan Center, Molly Holt Honored « Holt International – Blog

For 50th Anniversary of Holt Ilsan Center, Molly Holt Honored « Holt International – Blog:

'via Blog this'

Molly Holt, daughter of Harry and Bertha, helps celebrate 50 years of the Holt Ilsan Center in Korea
By Robert Lee (robert@heraldm.com)
Published in The Korean Herald, 12/11/2011

Molly Holt (left) gives a special thanks to Debbie Dunham, with her adopted son Drew (right), for their support of the Holt Ilsan Center in Gyeonggi Province on Thursday at the center’s 50th anniversary. (Holt Ilsan Center)
ILSAN — She’s known by many names, from the Mother Teresa of Korea to the Mother of all Korea’s Orphans — and 55 years on she is still living up to them. Molly Holt, chairwoman of Holt Children’s Services, was not only a witness to the nation’s rise from the ashes of the Korean War. Because of her selfless heart, she was knee deep in it. “I kept on delaying my college, because there was so much to do here, so much poverty, so much ignorance and so many babies died,” said Holt, referring to when she first arrived here in 1956. “The Busan city asked me to go to this one orphanage where they had a lot of deaths,” said the daughter of Harry and Bertha Holt, who founded the nation’s largest adoption agency at the time. Armed only with her nursing skills, a pure heart and a selfless will to care for others, Holt simply could not leave the country in need, which is why she decided to spend the rest of her life here. And at the Holt Ilsan Center’s 50-year anniversary on Thursday, volunteers, residents and special adoptee guests recognized how far the organization had come and what Holt has done for it.

“We truly appreciate her dedication, just like her parents,” said Kim Hanson, a 44-year-old adoptee. “The whole focus of her life is what will be good for the children. That is the only thing that she thinks about. If it is good for the children she will be absolutely all over it,” said Lee Soo-yeon, a director at the center. And it is that focus which means she will do anything for her residents. According to some at the center, Holt has slept on the floor and given up her bed for residents in need. “She is an angel, to have such a big heart to reach out to so many needed individuals, we cannot put into words,” said Kimberly Armstrong, unable to finish the sentence as she fought back tears. The 55-year-old from Oregon is one of the first wave of Korean adoptees. Living at the center, Holt still utilizes her medical expertise and love to help the some 300 adults and children with disabilities living at the center. “She is part of the medical discussion when we first receive residents as to whether or not they require surgery or other special considerations,” said Lee. “We have what we call evaluation clinics, where we determine what is for their (residents) future, because we want as many of them to become independent,” said Holt, who personally overseas the clinics. And since she is the chairwoman of the board, the clinics are only the tip of the iceberg.

“I’ve put my nose into every little corner,” said Holt with a giggle, adding that her first priority has always been adoption for the children with disabilities. But despite Holt’s efforts some things do not work out as hoped. “We have to do our best when they can’t be adopted because they are too severely disabled or have personality problems, or mental problems,” said Holt. By hearing her fondest memories one can see how much the children and residents really mean to her. “When the young people come back and say thank you, and you can see how they have married and had children,” replied Holt when asked about her fondest memories. But herein lies one of her biggest disappointments as well. “I have yet to meet an adult Holt domestic adoptee, they are all secret,” said Holt, referring to the some 25,000 children adopted through the service. However during the anniversary ceremony, Holt was able to meet adoptees of all ages, who came to celebrate the center.



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The Korean War Baby was also 'one of the first wave' being number A-20 and on the first planeload of children to leave Korea on May 21st, of 1956. One of several Mixed-blood orphans but most were of full blood, both parents being Korean. DID IT MATTER? No, but thousands of children, who could not and would not be adopted legally by Korean people, were wandering the streets of the cities of war-torn Korea. That was the conditions at the end of the war, and as the country struggled to get back on its feet children continued to be left in public places because parents or mothers could not take care of them. This is just the sad truth, they did not 'hate' them but rather many, not all, of them gave them up for the hope and belief that they would have a better life. As time went by, Korea has continued to grow and prosper, yet children continued to be given up for many reasons. Unwed mothers still have extreme difficulty in raising their children because of the social and family rejection, government support is sparse, being an 'orphan' is equal to being unwanted and flawed according to the common beliefs. If a child is FLAWED, premature, Disabled physically or mentally they are rejected and 95% of Disabled Children are sent abroad. Koreans are not horrible people but the ability and social prejudices cause even Christians and Buddhists to have second thoughts on adopting a disabled child. THIS IS WHY continuing to give these children a home is the RIGHT THING TO DO!!! Until the society changes and gives them hope and equality then InterCountry Adoptions (ICA or Overseas or International) must continue. The Korean War Baby is hopeful that CHANGE CONTINUES in the land of the morning calm, that Family Preservation IF POSSIBLE continues, that a Multi-level Plan continue to be done, that IN-Country adoptions be more OPEN and at least the adoptee be told both in SECRET Civil Code Law and Domestic Adoptions (Please read the Korean Women's Development Institute's reports on my blog for the facts).
I thank all the social workers who have tried to help children to find a home. PERIOD. They are not monsters, nor did they take part in some conspiracy to sell children into 'slavery', as some would proclaim and accuse them of doing. Certainly there are cases where Families of mothers (See how I don't always use Birth mother) actually took the child and gave him away (See "Resilience") without the mother's knowledge or approval. Safeguards have been set up since to try and prevent such cases but more needs to be done and in the technical advances of our day there should be checks to insure a child is really relinquished. Yet, Civil Code Law Adoptions permit secret adoption with not even background checks, no guidelines whatsoever, should this be allowed? Only the Korean people can decide to stop this practice where even the adoptee is not told-imagine the shock when and if they find out with all the issues of "Why me".

There are no quick fixes and each case warrants careful study in the present. We all need to work together not point the finger and use a few cases to try and stop ICA when in fact the Korean people are not yet ready to "take care of their own". The KWB hopes and prays that days comes when there is no need for adoption, no need for foster homes, families stay together, there is no divorce with children, etc. etc. We must be practical though and find the best solutions, until that day comes.

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