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 1, 2012

Overseas Adoption: Child Welfare or Abuse?

Overseas Adoption: Child Welfare or Abuse?

12-30-2011 Korea Times

Korean War Baby NOTES: I will comment in BLUE on this article.
Overseas adoption: child welfare or abuse?

By Kim Do-hyun

Some years ago, during a seminar about overseas adoption from Korea, I stated that the practice is “child abuse rather than child welfare.” Some of the social workers who were working for overseas adoption agencies looked very shocked when they heard my presentation.

After the seminar, some of them came to me and made strong complaints and protested. They argued, “Why do you insult and disgrace us, while we try to find sweet homes for abandoned children through overseas adoption?”

Korea’s overseas adoption program started immediately after the end of the 1950-53 Korean War. Now Korea’s per capita national income is more than $20,000 and the economy ranks in the world’s top 15, yet Korea is still one of the world’s major countries sending its own children overseas for adoption.

Here the oft used argument is that Korea is not a poor country anymore SO they SHOULD take care of their OWN children...However, it AIN'T about the economic ability of Korean people. Rather it is the still strong Social feelings of most, not all, Korean people AGAINST Unwed Mothers, Orphans, and Adoption. The question is HOW to continue to help the slowly changing attitudes toward these issues. Many still labor under the false assumptions that Koreans don't adopt children domestically, citing the governments figures for Domestic Adoptions. THESE are false, according to the Korean Women's Development Institute, the Civil Code Law allows domestic adoption WITHOUT being counted on the so-called Domestic Adoption yearly numbers. Hey, read the KWB blog post under KWDI and read their reports.

According to government statistics, Korea has sent nearly 200,000 children overseas for adoption from 1953 to the present. Among those children, there were 5,546 mixed-race children sent from 1955 to 1973 (after which mixed-race children were no longer counted because the vast majority of adoptees were full-blooded Koreans)(NO, the changes in allowing ABORTION started in 1973, permitting five reasons to legally permitt unwanted children to be killed/terminated/unwanted pregnancy could be 'fixed' up to 28 weeks), 98,178 children from unwed mothers, 28,823 children from broken families, 29,950 abandoned children and 37,216 disabled children.

According to these statistics, through overseas adoption, we sent away the mixed-race children, the children of unwed mothers, disabled children, and the children of broken families. That is why I define Korea’s overseas adoption as a kind of “systematic social segregation.” Of course, as a member of Korean society, I am also complicit in this massive “systematic social segregation project.”

Totally agree with Pastor Kim on this, he identifies that it is the Korean people and the government who are both responsible. On "systematic social segregation project" though I disagree on the "Segregation" point. Basically, Korea and its people, did not want these children or to provide help to raise these mostly 'full-blood' children because of  Social rejection and prejudice. Confucius was the Chinese philosopher that rules of how a society runs was based on, even the family structure and even Christians follow much of the teachings, calling them Korean Traditions. However, read on to see how Pastor Kim takes the next step-blame those who adopt from overseas as the 'bad guys'.

From a micro-perspective, overseas adoption can be seen as child welfare. In view of this, certainly I am very grateful to the adoptive parents in Western countries, who have looked after the abandoned Korean children with “philanthropic love.”

The KWB was not loved by my Adoptive Parents with 'philanthropic love', which means "Love of Humanity" by the Greeks.  My Adoptive parents were not perfect, but for many reasons, they TOOK ME BY CHOICE (meaning of ad+optare) to love me AS THEIR OWN SON. Was life wonderful? Not at all, and I was a rebel and prodigal son. Certainly some Adoptive Parents may have had such grandiose ideas but 'philanthropic love'? Philanthropic love does produce parents to take a child and raise it as their own. PLEASE,  "love of humanity" is NOT the main reason people adopted, yes, perhaps some did and do because they are trying to 'save a child' but the great majority of adoptees and adoptive parents I have met over the years had other reasons. Those who oppose adoption seem to want to denegrate the reason as some sort of act of kindness, but instead adoption should be understood by all involved as a great challenge and committment. It is the lack of proper background checking, fast track adoption, and allowing single adults to adopt, just some of the reasons for adoption failures.

I also am deeply appreciative of the various social workers in adoption agencies, police stations, maternity clinics and orphanages, to name but a few, who have tried to provide a sweet home for abandoned children. However, from a macro-perspective, the overseas adoption program of Korea has been deeply related to the international social system.
First, overseas adoption is a kind of child abuse by the state. Second, the overseas adoption policy of the government was likely a part of its economic development strategy, which means the overseas adoptees have been used as part of a project to create wealth and prosperity for the rest of the South Koreans.

Hmmm, this argument seems rather shallow...the Korean government (with apparently no challenge from its citizens) purposely planned to get rid of its socially unwanted children (not even mentioning, Pastor Kim, what of the churches and Christians of the land, their failure to protest the successful Planned Population of Korea's (Yes it is not Planned Parenthood but Planned Population-Korea is the only country to be honest about abortion) elimination of all those undesired fetus that were female, flawed, premature, unexpected pregnancies, or of mix-blood, victims of rape and incest, etc.) This is a difficult "project to create wealth and prosperity for the rest of the South Koreans".

Overseas adoption is the forced expulsion of children from the society where they are supposed to live. In this sense, overseas adoption is a social violence against children. As humans, we exist as part of a gigantic ecosystem. The existence of the biological parents of adoptees can never be annihilated nor denied. Accordingly, while adoptees are growing up, they should be given information about their biological parents and be able to interact with them. By doing so, adoptees can form their identity with less conflict.

WHO did this 'Social Violence'? Was it the past and present Korean Society and their views on the issues? Sure it sounds horrible and 'should' be different, but HOW to bring about change? Those who oppose any sort of adoption seem to forget that without the climate of the Society's attitudes about non-blood related adoption (reason why domestic adoptions are 80% kept secret, even from the child/adult, because it is a SHAME to be adopted. It is thought by most Koreans that one must have been flawed or unwanted, and if a domestic adoptee is discovered the Marriage is OFF. Until just recently government records show if one is adopted domestically. Change is happening in Korea, SLOWLY.

Overseas adoption is a forced separation of children from their natural ecosystems, as well as a way of forcing them into compulsory unity with settings different from and unnatural to their genetic and original social systems. Through this forced separation and compulsory unity, not only the adoptees, but also their biological parents, adoptive parents and their family members suffer trauma.

Yes, in some cases there was 'forced separation' since most women who were faced with their own family rejection because of premarital pregnancy (how dare you shame the family!). The family often demands that the Unwed Mother (government and NGO's best terminology) to abort or give IT up for adoption. Did ALL adoptive parents/family members suffer TRAUMA? That is way too inclusive and based on very few cases, those who whine and pine about their lives and blame it all on being adopted.  Members of the antiadoption forces number less than one percent of KADs, yet they make it seem that all adoptees are not educated and able to determine the facts for themselves. Hey, how about the children of 'regular' families, such as divorced families, abusive parents, separation, mixed-cultural marriages? Seems like we could whine about that too. Life is NOT fair, we have to accept the things that ARE and try to fix things better. We must deal with the past, live with the present.

The overseas adoption of Korean children can be seen as child abuse since it has been interrelated with the economic development strategy of the government. How can we call the overseas adoption program of Korea “child welfare” when we create wealth and prosperity by forcefully expelling them?

Again, who did the 'child abuse'? The Korean people, its government basically did what was necessary and socially acceptable. DID you know that it was NOT LEGAL to adopt a child in Korea that was not of your BLOODLINE? Domestic adoption within the extended family was acceptable for many years. SOMEHOW these social laws are forgotten by those who have lived in Korea, are Korean, but they ignore or forget to bring these facts to light. At the end of the Korean war there were estimates of 300,000 separated children, 90% of them were full-blooded Koreans. It was NOT only mixed-blooded children (term was Tuigi, half-breed, but now is HoNurRah, 'mixed-blood' slightly better) who were living on the streets, in overcrowded orphanages often supported by US and UN troops FYI. KOREAN PEOPLE couldn't BY LAW and WOULDN'T by their hearts adopt children that were NOT of THEIR Bloodlines. KWB is not be anti-Korea, it just IS THE TRUTH. Only in the past ten or twenty years has the government permitted by law adoption by CIVIL CODE LAW (where there is no background checks only between mother, lawyers, and mid-wives/marriage fixers) and Domestic adoptions (through the Four Adoption Agencies processing).

According to government statistics, overseas adoptions peaked during the 1970s and ‘80s. Between 1953 and 1968, fewer than 1,000 children were sent away for overseas adoption annually. This figure rose sharply: in 1969, 1,192 children were sent; in 1970, 1,932; in 1971, 2,725; and in 1985, 8,837. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, 113,568 children were sent for overseas adoption ― more than half of all overseas adoptees in the last six decades.

During the 1970s and ‘80s, “economic development” was the national motto of our society. In view of this, “child export” was used as a tool that promoted economic development and created wealth in our country. In 1988, Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive magazine pointed out that a Korean adoption agency received $5,000 per child as a fee from abroad in return for an overseas adoption. This went up to $10,000 per child by 2000 ― what a land of economic prosperity!

What? From 1988 to 2000 cost of living, care, medical, etc all went up. Is the dear Pastor Kim suggesting that there was more profit made by the adoption agencies? Oh, so only they raised 'prices'?

Through the figure given by The Progressive, we can estimate that throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Korea earned between $20 and $40 million annually from the overseas adoption business. At that time, if any Korean company exported even $1 million in goods, they were acknowledged by the government.

Incidentally, it is quite common to find letters of appreciation sent in the 1970s by Korean ambassadors to adoptive parents in Europe. Given this information, it is plausible that in the 1970s, the Korean government itself was the main driving force promoting overseas adoption as a national policy.

The Onus is on all Korean people because they have not yet, not yet found the social and religious desire to provide for all of their children. Now with a recent lack of Female Korean women who want to live in rural areas and the high male/female ratios of the '80's and '90s MULTICULTURAL MARRIAGES number over 167,000 and their MIXED-BLOOD CHILDREN are over 120,000 (oh of course, there are the ten percent of failed marriages but look at the divorce rate in Korea...Rising every year). Korea must deal with the fact that they are NOT Homogenous any more. HAHAHA, I laugh because there are still many Koreans who ARE Prejudiced, BUT I am Proud to say that more and more Koreans ARE CHANGING FOR THE BETTER. The new HoNurRah children are breaking into the Korean Society and bringing change of heart in their schools and communities. THAT is great, and may influence the social issues concerning SINGLE Parenthood, Family Preservation if possible, Adoption as being okay if necessary. There is no BLACK OR WHITE but a Grey Scale of situations and solutions, in This Thing of Ours-Adoption.

By sending nearly 200,000 children for overseas adoption to date, the government may have saved a considerable amount of money. In this respect, the overseas adoption policy killed two birds with one stone. On one hand, it brought in hard currency, while on the other hand, it cut welfare costs.

It is clear that the government systematically promoted overseas adoption and used children as a tool for economic development while neglecting its duty to protect children’s rights.

I agree with some of Pastor Kim Do-Hyun's logic, especially concerning the Korean Government. However, I believe he needs to also focus on Korean Society's part in all these issues. What of the Christian church, and of the Buddhists? I personally have heard dozens of Protestant Pastors and deacons tell me that they would NEVER adopt, even secretly because it was traditionally not allowed. Can you believe that, that a Christian who is "Adopted into the Family of GOD" would not adopt a child who is not blood related? And would they support an Unwed Mother? NO, they told me, because she was sinful in getting pregnant! WELL, that is not the God of my bible, who indeed adopted those who believe in Jesus Christ as equal members of the family of God. Yet the ability to process this is difficult, that I can call God, "Daddy"! Whoa, that has not yet completely been understood by myself, but I believe it. There are all the challenges of being adopted in this world, the uncertainties and identity issues. I think that the Korean churches need to revisit the issues of Adoption again...but that is for another day.
Pastor Kim Do-hyun is a director of KoRoot, a nonprofit organization that provides assistance to Korean children who had been adopted overseas. He can be reached at:

The KWB does want to say that dear Pastor Kim and his dedicated wife have provided great care for Korean Adoptees at KoRoot. Over the years they have provided a great place for adoptees and family members when they come to visit Korea. We differ on small points but the KWB respects his tireless efforts on behalf of all KADs. Let's all try to FIX the present issues and attitudes of the Korean Society, for it is ONLY when Korean people change completely that the need for all the Disabled, Unwanted, children still being adopted BOTH In Korea and Overseas can be reduced Gradually. Let's work together!

1 comment:

  1. These issues need to be addressed. Several adoption processes aren't the same in every region.