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.

February 15, 2014

Back in Show Business-in the Philippines.

Update: 15 Feb. 2014

This is Don Gordon Bell, and well... for a Long long time, I have not touched my blog nor even been part of the discourse on This Thing of Ours-Adoption...I have been living in the Philippines, focusing on just getting established and well, getting ready for the last chapters of my life. I found much has changed, much has stayed the same, population has exploded in the Philippines since I left in 1985. Poverty is worse than ever, though the economy is growing at a high rate the trickle-down effect is not providing jobs.

Yet children born to unwed mothers in the Philippines for the most part, perhaps due to being one of the largest Catholic Christian communities in the world, STAY with their Mothers. Society in the Philippines tends to overlook a person's personal parentage with acceptance, unlike in Korea (Rep of Korea or South Korea not the communist run North Korea) where any hint of Taintedness or being Not perfect can kill a career before it begins. Confucian thinking pollutes the mindset of even Catholic and Protestant Christian in Korea in general with the idea that to be Orphaned, or even Adopted...proved that you were tainted according to this non-religious social structure that controls still a large majority of modern Korean society...But I digress.

Since my unfortunate divorce from a Korean national in 2010 it has been challenging to adjust back to living no longer in my birth mother's land, to 'making it' in Manila. I lived almost ten years back in '75 to '85 working in the film making business, starting with "Apocalypse Now". It was contact with Andrew Leavold, that crazy Aussie whose passion for B-movies lead him and I to do interviews on skype back in 2008, awakening memories of my adventures as a B-Movie Character Actor. I returned several times, met Nick Nicholson, Henry Strzalkowski, Steve Rogers, David Light, and FB contact with many other foreigners that I once worked in both International and Filipino action/drama genre films.

Over the last 18 months I 're-invented myself' with my hobby as an amatuer photographer, developing the 'eye' for what looks good on a scene in a film or even with a persons face. I understood from working with John Silao, a Filipino who emigrated to the states as a teenager, in our college days at Mt. San Antonio College. We have known each other since 1973 after both of us got out of the armed forces and through common high school friends shared a house in West Covina, Cal. and in 1975 came to Manila for a 3 week vacation that for John lasted for 3 months before he returned to Cal. to continue to study photography. 

I was caught up in the APOCALYPSE NOW film, the first major production on the Vietnam War. My 'tour of duty' was to last ten years, as I became involved in the Casting Dept. under Ken Metcalfe...teaching foreigners from many lands who had arrived in the P.I. (Philippine Islands) to be extras in this great war epic. I was in my element, and worked to coordinate all the extras, Vietnamese Boat Refugees, D'Ifugao tribe of the Mountain Provinces who played the Montagnards or Mountain Men of the Central Highlands of Vietnam, plus all the Foreign Background extras playing US troops. It was a glorious adventure and healing at the same time for myself.

Hollywood had come to the Philippines big time and for 16 months I worked on the filming. One film led to another during this Golden Age of the cinema in the Philippines, as one by one, foreign productions came to film on location, in the P.I. 

(To be continued)

1 comment:

  1. Just revisiting your blog after some time. Best of luck in your new chapter and enjoy photography; it was one of the best decisions I ever made :)