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.
June 24, 2012
'via Blog this'
June 23, 2012
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June 16, 2012
Please look for our email next week which will include the Kickstarter link. We hope that in addition to backing the project personally, you'll pass along the information to as many people as possible. In the meanwhile, if you haven't done so already, please "like" Mu Films on Facebookand follow us on Twitter.
We have some wonderful rewards for our Kickstarter backers.
- Hot-off-the-presses DVDs and movie posters of the new film!
- Vintage posters of FIRST PERSON PLURAL (available on Kickstarter only!)
- Autographed copies of Eleana Kim's fabulous book Adopted Territory: Transnational Korean Adoptees and the Politics of Belonging
- Downloadable music from the soundtrack of IN THE MATTER OF CHA JUNG HEE from award-winning composer, Todd Boekelheide
- And much more!
You can check updates on the campaign and the film by visiting us:
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Deann Borshay Liem
GEOGRAPHIES OF KINSHIP
'via Blog this'
The Korean War Baby has found this website, Adoption Blogs, to be a great source to find out how Adoptive Parents, among others such as adoption professionals, are dealing with the myriad issues pertaining to This Thing of Ours-Adoption.
I believe that at my age I was not able to understand the reasons that my mother "gave me up". Even as I tried to understand "that she could not take care of me" and gave me up for a "better life", this did not take away the damage. BUT, I had a better chance growing up in the USA than in very prejudiced Korea. In many cases though, it was the case of jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Yes, some international adoptees MAY have felt/thought that they wished they were white. NOT ALL, and there are thousands of "successful" adoptions that does not rule out that some desire to "know what happened". Some do not want to know, satisfied with the scant bits of information that they have received.
THAT BEING SAID...I do NOT blame "being adopted for my problems". There are those few in number, who go around blaming their adoption on their "Adopter" parents and family. The old adage "What came first? The Chicken or the Egg?" comes to my mind. The outspoken few seem to claim to speak for "all of the adoptees", but they don't speak for ME. They actually blame the Egg (Adoption to another land) for their very existence, lamenting that they lost family, language, culture and were cruelly taken away from their homeland, ignoring the basic facts that caused them to be "given up for adoption" in the first place.
What comes first? Separation/abandonment OR Adoption? In the majority of cases around the world it is a variety of reasons that cause Separation from mother and child. There is NO ONE reason, is there? ANYONE who uses the word "ALL" is full of crap. Why is it that we cannot use QUALIFIER WORDS such as "some, few, many, a majority, etc" and refrain from using the all inclusive words? The Spectrum of Difference indeed applies to This Thing of Ours-Adoption. Balance in stating our position should be held to, not extreme viewpoints or attacks on 'the other side'.
TO ME, and I am not one gifted with great intelligence just years of making mistakes and trying to learn from them..in MANY cases, women were forced to make decisions to "give up raising their children" for many reasons. The simple fact is that Adoption does not CAUSE the separation. It may provide a solution for a young mother who has few support networks, or a mother who has no SONS, or a child that is born with physical or mental disabilities in a society that rejects such.
Were there cases of out and out kidnapping? Well, duh, yes. Some celebrities of the KAD world claim they were kidnapped but the clarity of WHO is not made clear. In some documented cases it was the family of the mother that kidnapped without her knowledge and sent the child away. In a a great number of cases, mothers were pressured by their own family, friends, government's lack of support, and the general view of Society that being unwed and a mother was not acceptable. What could she do? Let's not forget the married woman who had 'too many female children'. Disabilities led to thousands to be exported thankfully to homes where they just might have a loving home, but in another land.
|The argument of Causality has been|
debated for centuries
The list of reasons and causes goes on and on. YET, throughout the cyberspace of bloggers, activist groups, support groups, etc. we find a common thread that the "EGG (Adoption)" was the cause of the Separation/Loss, the "Chicken", which I believe came first. It is the Whiners Club of KADs who somehow blame their adoptive parents/social workers/government officials, etc. on their sad lives. They lament that IF ONLY we had stayed with our mother...We must go back to the very beginning, the moment of Conception of life when a human egg met a human sperm, eh? Life began, we may argue that it is or isn't a "human" yet but it will once born be a human being, a newborn.
Most societies have moral rules that govern taking care of the child born, not necessarily marriage. In some societies, it is the tribe that takes care of the children and raises them within their small society. Being raised by the biological mother and father is not always the case, is it?
The reasons for a woman getting pregnant...again there are many. Rape, Incest, Pre-Marital Sex between consenting adults but not yet ready to be responsible for raising a family (HEY, I have two t-shirts for that one, a daughter and son that I "fatherered" but did not know, becoming an absentee father). What did adoption have to do in "Causing" a child to be given up? What resulted was a life was produced, a woman had to make hard choices on what she could/would do. In the Republic of Korea, everyday four thousand pregnant Korean women chose to Abort or Terminate their Unwanted Pregnancy, do they live with guilt? Perhaps some do, others go on with their lives, a few to regret later when Infertility after several abortions may cause them to secretly adopt from another unwed mother. Cycles within cycles, in the wheel of life and death.
Yes, it would be great if all countries had a social network that supported single motherhood, but that is not the reality yet even in "modern" societies. WHA? Can we expect them to change their Social and Religious structures when even the USA and European countries are still making major adjustments in Women's Rights, Children's Rights, Welfare, etc? Steps should/could be taken to provide a way out, but again there are many, a substantial number of women who just are NOT READY to raise a child. The bio-logical "father" may be scarce, having run the other direction, or denied being the sperm donor. Not all women were subjected to society's and family pressures to give up their child. Some, may I dare say many, just were not ready to be mothers, yet did not take the step to abort the life growing inside them.
Am I cold towards them? NO, I must give them the benefit of doubt, since in my own life, I was one of the players. I had so many Unprotected sexual experiences that produced two children I am aware of, that I finally took the extreme option and had a Vasectomy at the age of 28. From that time on, I could tell every (yes every) woman, "Want to see my scar? I shoot blanks". (Years later, though, I regretted my youthful folly when I had to have needles thrust into the still producing testicles to try to have a 'test-tube baby', without success). At the age of sixty, I will never be a father, I regret.
In the sixties and seventies in the western societies the attitudes towards unwed motherhood was very different. Single mothers were thought to be 'bad women' and the men seemed to be let off the hook. In Korea adoptee activist groups are advocating for the Single Unwed mothers (single mother could also be divorced mothers since the wonderful advent of divorce appeared on the Korean society's scene just in the last dozen years). This year last May, family month, there was a day for Single Motherhood. SLOOOOOOWLY, Korean society is changing.
Back to the Chicken/Egg analogy...Separation/Loss/Abandonment, in Varying degrees felt differently by the age of the child. Almost all happen to Orphans, both real or created by Relinquishment-designated "Single Orphan" for one biological parent signing away their rights or "Double Orphan" when in rare cases BOTH biological parents sign away their rights. You see some disregard the fact that the designation of "Orphan" is recognized by Hague Conventions on Adoption and Children's Rights in these terms. An Orphan is NOT only those who's natural/biological parent/parents have been killed. Children found Abandoned with no living relative coming forward to support them have to be taken care of by the state.
Adoption, both within the country (which the KWB prefers IF possible), and through International, Transcultural, InterCountry, etc is therefore a NECESSARY way of providing a home. It does not guarantee a perfect 'forever home', as some pro-adoption groups purport, NAY, adoption comes with all of life's hazards, yes, ALL of the risks that natural families have PLUS the additional issues. As my own sister aptly put it "Life is a Crap Shoot". One could wind up having to deal with many problems, adoption may, just though give one a chance they would not have had in their own family or country.
Certainly, let's push for Family Preservation...but what to do when the young mother simply cannot bare to face raising a child by herself? Should motherhood be "forced" on her? Of course not. Each case has its own facts and nuances, as in the case of social welfare and children. Children are taken from their mothers because of dangerous lifestyles such as drugs, abuse, incest, rape from boyfriends, etc.
There is NO ALL in these issues of life, each is separate yet similar perhaps. So let's stop the WHINING and PINING that a few do "I ARE ADOPTED that is why I am all messed up". SOME in fact were kidnapped by their own family and given away without the consent of the mother! BUT NOT ALL. To claim that Adoption somehow caused "all" to be separated from mothers is Wrong. Plain and simply not true in even a great majority of Korean adoptions, InCountry or InterCountry/International.
We who were adopted both secretly, or openly, it is YOU and I who must face our issues, DEAL with the facts but be ready to accept that we may never know "the truth" for certain. Our Adoption Identity is a combination of our ethnicity, culture we were born in and the one we were raised in. Each of us are individuals and face our lives in our own ways. May each of you, dear readers, find your own path to a balanced self-image. Be ready for a rollercoaster ride, read many different viewpoints, keep a forgiving attitude ready, find your own balance, don't take 'sides'. Learn from many, then find your own place. Good luck.
The Korean War Baby- Still working it through.