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Being a Single Mother in S. Korea

12-26-05-02

By Kim Young-Jin

Kim Jung-in (an alias), a public relations officer, knew it would be difficult to raise her one-month-old daughter alone. But determined to try, she ignored family members who pressured her to opt for adoption, just as they had told her to have an abortion.

“I was confident I could get a job and take care of her on my own,” recalled Kim, 36, of the turbulent period four years ago. “But I needed time to find work and persuade my parents I could do that.”

Time and understanding, she would find, were not on her side.

Kim met her boyfriend while working abroad for a Korean firm. They wanted to marry but her family would not give their blessing without meeting the prospective groom first. After they learned she was pregnant, the man convinced her to quit her job, saying he could support her.

But the man’s business fell through, and with scant resources, he convinced Kim to return to Korea unmarried. Despite promises to follow her, he vanished.

She ended up in Busan with her parents, who shunned her for giving birth out of wedlock – a common response in Korean society. “My mother cooked meals for me, but not for my baby,” she recalled. “My father did not accept me as part of the family. I ran out of places to turn to.”

Choi Hyeong-sook, an unwed mother and activist, plays with her son at a
park in central Seoul, Sunday. / Korea Times photo by Kim Young-jin

Kim may have been alone, but her story is not uncommon in a country where stigmatization and a lack of social services force many women to choose between abortion and adoption. While single mothers have raised their profile in recent years, groups supporting them say that the government must provide them with a safety net and begin to set straight a painful history.

The issue may be set to go under the spotlight as Korea prepares for its first female president, Park Geun-hye, who has promised to improve conditions for women. Support groups say whether Park pays attention to single mothers will be a bellwether of how thoroughly she plans to follow through on this pledge.

As yet, the President-elect’s team has not made specific policies for single mothers and they are not mentioned in its policy book of over 300 pages.

“Right now, they are included in the policies for single parents,” said an official from the policy committee of Park's Saenuri Party, requesting anonymity. “Once the transition committee is launched, it is possible that the issues of unmarried mothers can be discussed there.”

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Source: The Korea Times

Interesting read.  
Tags: baby, culture
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