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.


Tuigi-'Devil Child' Speaks Out


"Tuigi" born to a Korean woman and a "foreign Devil".

TuiGi or 튀기- Korean people called me a "Child of a devil", because my birth father was a foreigner.

The KWB was born during the Korean War and given up for adoption by his Korean Mother. He and his sister discovered late in life that they were actually Really biological siblings when a simple mistake was made on a passport application. We were in the first early flights of 1956, sent to the land of our American father, out mother hoping for a better life than we would find in the prejudiced society at that time in Korea. 
He grew up in Southern California, in a simple lower middle-class family, very uneventful NOT suffering 'great persecusion or racism'.




 
The war in Vietnam continued to rage when Don received his draft notice. He chose instead to volunteer with the US Marine Corps and served in Vietnam with an elite unit, 1st Reconnaissance Battalion. This later opened doors during a visit to the Philippines where he enjoyed a "career in B-movies" as a Character Actor.




Right center, with glasses/mustache.

There is a REAL Don Gordon so I went back to Don Gordon Bell
I used Don Gordon as a screen name also.

Radioman on "Apocalypse Now"




After a life-changing incident he left the film business and went back to the States. His focus became centered on helping others find peace in their lives. As he found healing of his own he learned to help others find forgiveness and healing.
He has worked in many types of jobs, drifting most of his life.  Wanderlust to strange places and meeting different people has always been interesting to him.
In 1994 he arrived in Seoul with a church ministry team and moved with his Kansas City wife for just one year...


Pastor Kim's wife, Kathy, Don,
 Looking at logbook at Holt Museum


That year turned into now 15 years of teaching English and helping Korean people to understand This Thing of Ours-Adoption. It is his hope to help change Korean people's attitudes concerning Adoptees and Adoption in general, with more openness and acceptance, for Civil Code Law, Domestic Adoption, and Overseas Adoptees. At present over 95% of adoptions in-country are done in secret, due to the feeling of shame about adoption. Thousands of children are not even aware that they were adopted, yet both Adoptive Family and Adoptee can face similar problems that many adoptees may suffer. We are all in this sense a brotherhood.
As Overseas adoptees, we had both Trans-Racial and Cultural challenges, growing up may have been confusing and difficult, though many have adjusted better than others.

There are a myriad stories from terrible to wonderful. It is a Spectrum of life, reflecting all that is good and bad, no one has the "Voice" of the whole. He thinks we all need to listen to each other with respect, knowing that each case is unique though we have so much in common. As in life, there are the same things that 'regular' families and individuals face, with all life's good and bad that can and does happen.

Adoption is not the first and best, but it can and Does provide a home for a child that may grow up in overcrowded institutions until 19 then out on their own. Few orphans find good jobs, having to settle of the ones no one else wants. They rarely (3%) are able to graduate from college or university, and thousands each year are stuck in orphanages and homes, unable to be adopted.
Children at Cheonju orphanage in 2000 waiting to greet the author and other visitors at the door. (Photograph by Hollee McGinnis)
They are too old now to be adopted. They will suffer the detrimental effects
 of institutional care on a child’s development.
 "According to statistics of the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare the number of children entering orphanages has risen from 17,675 in 2004 to 19,000 in 2007 with about 800 to 900 19-year-olds every year aging out of the system with little housing, educational, or vocational support." Hollee McGinnis Relative Choices-South-Korea-and-its-children/

The KWB feels these children need a chance to be adopted but Korea keeps them from being adopted only because of the embarassment of being called a 'baby exporter'. It is a complex, messy affair. Some claim, ignorantly, that it is because of low income financial reasons but the fact is that most children come from middle class birth 'bio-logical parents'. Money is NOT the reason in the world's 13th ranked GDP country. It is because of the Unwed status and Korean society not dealing with the children born each day that survive somehow the 4,000 abortions done daily. This is the Horror, this is the reality.

In Korea we lived, when millions were aborted, a 'perfect solution' to unwanted pregnancy or sex selection. Abortion continues to be used as a contraception option. This is a uncontested DAMN FACT. Yes, many women are forced to choose life or death because they are just not ready or allowed to be a mother. Every day, about 21 babies ARE BORN ALIVE to women who must decide "Now WHAT?"

The KWB believes that a woman should be shown ALL options before she makes her final Choice, as she will personally live with it all her life. Everyday from One to Four thousand Korean Women chose to "terminate their pregnancies".
 
In 2007, Unwed single women gave birth to children. KWDI (Korean Women's Development Institute) reports 7,774 estimated 31.7% of women kept 2,464 children to raise on their own. For 2,296 children who were sadly relinquished by their mothers for adoption, the numbers are almost evenly split Half domestic/ half InterCountry.
2464 + 2246 + 3014 = 7774

What of the 3,014 remaining? They are 'Unknown' but it must be assumed that they are "CIVIL Code Law" Adoptions, that are not in government figures! Estimates are that 97.8% of Civil Code Law AND "Domestic" Adoptions are SECRETLY done.

 Society's beliefs are still very strong against adoption, infertility, and are difficult to change. Yet, change comes slowly, hopefully some of you will see the hearts and minds of Korean society accept someday, that an adopted child can be loved and be openly spoken as "Ibyangin"/adoptee.


Some of these adopted children are also growing up  finding out about the SECRET by blood types not matching, or overhearing relatives talking about them. They must then deal with the SAME issues that Overseas Adoptees face. Are they not our brethren even though they grew up within their own country and Ethnic groups?
 Ask Ron at the Late Discovery Adoptees about that.

"Who, What happened, WHY? Have I walked past my 'real' mother on the streets of Seoul?" These questions haunt them just like International adoptees, do they not? I have personally met now 5 In-Country adoptees  who still cannot tell openly that "I was adopted".

This is monstrously wrong, talk about Human Rights for the Child, this is absolutely hideous and does not acknowledge the primal wounds of separation that almost all adopted children go through. Yes, even those who are living in their "birth country" as a dirty open little secret that most older extended family members KNOW. If it is learned that a Korean was adopted there are a huge majority of Koreans who would call off the wedding. THIS IS AN UGLY FACT.

In the past and present, 60-70% of Koreans will only adopt 'blood relations' and secretly. Officially, so called "Domestic" Adoptees number over 87,000 (This does not count Civil Code Law adoptions which exceed all estimates and may actually be almost DOUBLE the "Domestic" number)- yet 97.8% are NOT told that they were adopted due to the shame of adoption. This ought NOT to be BUT IT IS WHAT IT IS.

Inconvenient Truths held by our mother's people, but it will take a prolonged campaign to change their hearts. Stopping InterCountry or Overseas Adoptions is not enough!!! Shame has not worked, rather more open stories are necessary like those of KUMSN or Momma Mia organizations that highlight the plights and struggles of Unwed Mothers who valiantly defy society, family, government prejudice to overcome and raise their children. There are huge numbers of Korean mothers who have KEPT their children. Approximately 55,000 Unwed Mothers HAVE KEPT their children! Check the facts, don't believe the KWB.

We see some promising changes coming in Adoption Law Revision (This MAY effect CIVIL CODE LAW ADOPTIONS according to Steve Morrison of MPAK). BUT Changing Laws does not change Hearts of the people. This is "What it IS", plain and simple facts but we can impact and help move the Korean people to recognize that adoption is not shameful. Whining about our life though, those few who do seem to blame their adoption for all of their problems, causes some Progressive politicians to think WRONGLY that adoption is bad. WELL, they don't speak for ME or for thousands of adoptees who were NOT WANTED BY THEIR PEOPLE, birth family, or birth parents.

There are many reasons that 2/3 of Unwed Mothers in 2009 GAVE UP for ADOPTION their children. For every child adopted Overseas there are THREE adopted In the Country.

Everyday in 2007, these numbers: Twenty (21) children were born alive Daily, but 4,000 aborted EVERYDAY.........Inconvenient truth? Damn Right! Maybe we ARE 'LUCKY' to be born alive. Know that some had that terminology but it is incredible odds 4,000 to 21 = 490 "Terminated human fetus" to one Born Alive.

The KWB does not have all the answers. He is willing to listen to all and seek answers. But some will argue extreme positions that make NO SENSE. Extreme and irrational views must be balanced with realities. Let us reason and work together to find a Balanced Multi-level plan of action. We must work with all to come to a better solution.

We are the Korean Adoptee Diaspora (Scattered). Many of us may long to discover our roots and Self-Identity, some don't care to perhaps worried about their Adoptive Family. Many cannot or DO NOT desire to go "beyond Culture Camps". As young children many might have wished they were "White" like their parents. As they mature though most seem to settle into their Adoption Identity.

How many of us can become KADLinK (Korean ADoptees Living in Korea)? They are just the few (roughly 150-200) who CHOOSE to do that and are ABLE for a short or long time. It is those of us, like the KWB, who are meeting with "Real Koreans" everyday and sharing our stories. Many CANNOT OR DON'T desire to come and live in the motherland. We all must do our own thing. In the year 2009 it is estimated that 5,000 KAD's visited the country. Less than 400 live here for more than 3 months. Not all are disgruntled or angry, many of us are darn glad we WERE adopted.

To educate the Korean People! That is why the KWB has stayed, though everyday he faces a bit of rejection because of his "unKorean face". "Hey, I just smile, tell them my story, and educate them on adoption."

In the 16 years he has lived here he has told his story to thousands of students, parents, teachers, church members, etc.




"Mixed-Blood" has always made me feel like a Divided Person, Half Asian-Half somthing. Since DNA testing helped to establish Bio-Father's ethnicity the KWB has also come to understand the Institution of Adoption, celebrating his Scottish Identity from his Adoption. He is a Multi-Cultural S.O.B. thank you!!
 
Each of us visiting, working, and living, do our share in putting a "FACE" to adoption. Let us also help to bring Korean Society to view Adoption as GOOD, not just bad.



Crib for children in process for a home SOMEWHERE, inside Korea or 'exported', pure chance on where one goes.

All Korean Adoptees, even our secretly adopted Domestic brethren, all need to find out "Who am I". Adoption Identity has different meanings to each individual.

Most have found loving families, though some have faced further loss from life's many situations. A few have suffered abuse, wrongful separation from birth family. There are stories of sexual or mental abuse, of Adoptive parents who have difficulty understanding the issues Transracially adopted children have had. 


The movie "Adopted" delves into many of the issues that Transracial Adoptees face with some parents. "We Can Do Better" is a DVD that comes with the movie that is a MUST for all involved in This Thing of Ours-Adoption.

We must all be open to each other, hear all sides, find better ways to prevent possible abuses, most of all to find our own personal Self-Identity...and peace.

The journey of Self-Identity is difficult, emotional, stressful, and some may never find all the "answers". We who were Adopted must walk our own paths and sharing our stories can help all members of "This Thing of Ours-Adoption".

The "first" generation of KAD's from the 40's (yes like Sen. Paull Shin of Washington State Senate) and the 50's are now in our late fifties and sixties, grandparents now. Young KADs are coming in their 18 to their twenties, seeking their own Adoption Identity. Three generations and it continues...

The reasons for our adoptions changed over the years but still everyday babies are born and given up, children are abandoned for physical, mental, and just the crap reasons of life-divorce, separation of parents, death, etc.

It took some countries years to no longer have a "supply" of children for adoption, such as Australia. Yet throughout the world there are millions of children who have been "single or Double" orphaned, needing homes. The supply and the demand will always be with us.

Preventing abuses and malpractices are the main goals, but the Korean War Baby supports a multi-tiered approach to Adoption. This seems logical and practical, acceptable to all. Can't we all work out a compromise, without hatred or ignoring each other?

Can't we all get along? Hopefully, most of us ARE willing and able. Let's work together.

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