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.


May 5, 2012


Back in the Saddle-Posting again, with wisdom gained from many mistakes made in utter stupidity!
 
Well, it has been a long time. I have been very busy, learning new things about websites, design, graphic programs, combining audio/graphic/text files, etc. I am living back in the Philippines, where I once lived for ten years, back in 1975 to 1985 when I worked in local and international films. I am divorced, again! Thankfully no children involved in either marriages. I guess that I was too late to really understand what it takes to keep a marriage together. Oh, WELL. "Too Late, Too late," cried St. Augustine.

For seven months I have been here in the Philippines, discovering that though many years (26) have passed since I last lived here, the Filipino people are basically the same, in the majority they continue to be open and friendly. Of course, there is the elements that prey on stupid tourists or conceited foreign 'devils' who consider their 'culture and technology' some how superior. I have met some of these in the streets of passion in Angeles City, the entertainment/sex tour capital of the Philippines. It is what it is...life goes on.

It is myself who has changed so much, some for the better, alot for the worse, LOL. I guess aging and maturity, plus realizing that life must be lived as well as I can, respecting all others if possible to the best of our ability, has produced many of these differences on my outlook of life.

When I left Korea last May, 2011, I explored across the USA, driving from Chicago, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennesse, across Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and finall California. I met with KAD and family, lingered in Tennesse working on my biography book, then stayed with my Dad and my new step-mother. Throughout I met with many Korean Adult Adoptees and heard their stories.

It was a great time to re-connect with the land of my adoption, the great US of A. I had lived for 16 years in my mother's land, the "land of the morning calm", known as the Republic of Korea, or Da Han Min Gook. I had found that being of mixed-blood had good and bad consequences.

I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children.Psa_69:8

I came across this verse from the Old Testament that really 'jumped out' at me. For after living in Korea and constantly hearing Koreans tell me "you don't look Korean at all" or that "well, you aren't REALLY Korean" and other choice bits, made me realize that my mother who gave me birth had indeed realized that growing up in Korea would have been almost impossible for me.

When people looked at me they saw a Westerner and a Native Speaker. Often students in group classes disappeared after I announced that my mother was a Korean. The majority, maybe 75 percent had no problem, and actually more and more of Korean society is accepting the Mixed-blood AND the Kyopos (Koreans who have emigrated to other lands and returned for a visit or to live and work). With 170,000 multicultural marriages and 120,000 offspring Korea is now waking up to the fact they are a NOT homogeous people. Welcome to the 21st Century and Globalization!

My identity will always be an American, of mixed-heritage but totally a 'red-blooded Yankee'. I saw across the cities and towns of America the diversity of the land, though we know that prejudice exists everywhere at least the majority of folks accept that an American is not a 'rich white' person as some would suggest.

Often across the cyberworld I read of Korean Adult Adoptees (some empasize that many of us are now adults) who complain bitterly that "they lost their culture, language, family" when they were adopted to other countries. This is true, but they seem to ignore the many reasons that mothers in Korea were pressured, even forced by circumstances to give up or relinquish their children.

Relinquishment may have been due to the child being a war orphan in the early period after the Korean War, with thousands of children on the streets. It may be because of children of "mixed-blood" a result of foreign 'boyfriends'; "a disabled person- premature, mental or physical disability"; one too many "females"; or simply a 'love child' born to an unwed woman. The list is long, and the reasons changed over the decades, with the limited research done it is obvious that most Korean women had little choice because of the lack of support from boyfriends who ran like a scared rabbit; pressure to have an abortion for unwanted pregnancy from their own families to hide the shame; lack of support from the government and social programs to support Single Motherhood.

The issues are complex and diverse, and no solution is simple. The facts are that each year thousands of children are born to Unwed Mothers and Korean society has not yet caught up with the idea that being Single Divorced or Unwed has a place in society. Within the last decade Divorce laws have given more rights to women for custody of children that they never had before. Society is moving forward, but it takes time.

All these things I have pondered for many years, as I have sought to understand This Thing of Ours-Adoption. One thing I have seen over and over is this: The spectrum of lives and how they each are finding their own Identity is across the board, from extreme to extreme. There is no "black and white", no right answers, no simple solutions. What has been, can not be changed. How each of us deals with our own lives must be done with careful research of other's lives from every part of the spectrum. Reading only stories of those who had horrible things happen to them does not represent the greater majority. Life in many "natural" families suffer from the same abuses and problems, having nothing to do with Adoption.

Certainly there are those who believe that Adoption is only wonderful and the "Christian thing to do". I disagree partially with this notion, for it tends to ignore the bond between a human being growing inside a woman's body. Even a Surrogate mother who is not biologically a fetus's genetic mother has this bonding, and science is finding this out only recently. Science has helped to create a human being, that a family may be, but that child also MAY have the desire to meet the biological 'parents'. These are the complexities that were never thought of when Sperm Donors later found out that dozens of their 'children' were born of their 'seed'. Some of them wanted to find them, some just don't care. Again the Spectrum of life.

All these things must be considered, in a balanced way because they cannot be undone, can they? Each must find their own answers, and deal with it. What I have found is that those on Extremes have turned into PRO and CON groups, some attacking the others with great hostility and anger. Some see simple solutions that would stop adoption from one country to another but they fail to view the current state of that society on Adoption and Orphan status. The other side extols the 'blessedness of adoption' and ignore the realities that a child/adult must face throughout their lives, the many unanswered questions.
 "Why?" "What really happened?" "Do I betray my parents if I look for my 'other parents'?"

Many do not even want to know, loyality may cause them to not want to search. Again, there is a vast range of emotional feelings, thoughts, desires and positions. It is a life long journey, that may stay the same or suddenly change. When some adoptees have searched they found different stories, a few have found reunion but others have been rejected twice.

You who read this, you may be an Adult Adoptee, an Adoptive Parent or family member, a Natural/1st/Birth mother, or a social worker, adoption agency staff, government official, etc. The so-called Adoption Triad has extentions of many groups and in this day and age MOST of them should work together to find the best solutions for each individual person involved.

If Family Preservation of an Unwed Mother is possible then yes by all means; if the family of the mother is not willing then YES, a family that openly adopts within the country; but if not possible then YES, send the child to a family of another culture, making certain that international and local laws are followed. Every child deserves a home, and he or she should not have to grow up in Foster homes or Institutional Care IF A HOME CAN BE FOUND. I have the strongest disgust for those who blindly are against InterCountry Adoption (formerly called International Adoption) yet ignore the facts of a country's own ideas on Orphans/Adoptees. They scream "Family Preservation" yet there is no 'father', only a woman, a mother, faced with the realities of life. She must live with her 'decision' which may be pressured upon her by greed or those thinking it is best for the child. In certain societies now Single Motherhood is 'acceptable' but in many others it is unacceptable. We cannot 'make' a people desire 'to do the right thing' or 'take care of their own'. WHO are we to demand such?

On the other hand, corruption in Sending Countries Should/Must be exposed and governments of Receiving Countries follow the spirit of the Hague Conventions on the Rights of the Child and on Adoption. Not all adoptions have been forced upon mothers, and babies have not all been 'stolen'. Thousands of children were abandoned on the streets, because the circumstances the mothers still find themselves faced with cause them to make the decision to give up their child. Can society move forward and change? Slowly that is happening in some countries but more must be done. One-sided arguments that blame other do not solve the problems.

Children are born each day around the world in poverty, with no family, victims of war, mixed marriage, prejudices, subject to various religious and moral rules, the list is endless. The world is becoming Globalized yet we have still have our differences. How wonderful if we all respected each other...how we love the songs of peace and love. SIGH, but the realities of life in this world is not that because good and evil exist in the hearts of mankind. We can only try individually to do what we each think is right. I only wish I had learned this earlier in my own life and not made so many mistakes.

Well, enough for now. I encourage all of you to seek out what you can discover, remember to keep things in perspective, balance your viewpoint by reading many different writings by every part of This Thing of Ours-Adoption. Good luck and God (which ever one you may believe in) bless you and yours.

The Korean War Baby

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