Monthly Archives: October 2007

Increased Number of Unwed Mothers Raising the Child on their Own

Thanks to Dr. Richard Boas for sending on this article translated by Young Joo Kim, Assistant Program Officer for the Asia Foundation, Seoul.

Donga Ilbo, October 8th, 2007by Woo Jungyeol

‘Increased Number of Unwed Mothers Raising the Child on their Own’

According to Korea Women’s Development Institute(KWDI) the rate for single moms hoping to raise the child on their own increased up to 31.7% from 12.1% in 1998 and 5.8% in 1984. Ae Ran Won’s director Han Sangsoon says the number of mothers choosing to bring up over adoption has increased by more than 10 % during the past 5 years.

The decrease in the number of adoptees and single-parented children among these adoptees also shows the increase in the mothers’ efforts to bring up their own children. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare(MOHW), the number of adoptees both domestic and overseas is consistently going down, from 4,600 in 1990, 4,046 in 2000, 3,899 in 2004, and 3,562 in 2006. Among these adoptees the percentage of single-parented children has also gone down to 80% in 1990 to 60% after 2000.

Those who raise up the children tend to be more educated and older, compared to those who send their children to institutions or for adoption. Last year’s research by the Ministry of Women and Family(MOWF) shows that among 65 women who joined a group home, 78.4% have graduated from high schools and 21.6% either graduated or still in colleges. On the other hand those who send the children for adoption had 71.4% high school graduates and 28.6% in college. The average age of those raising children is 24.5, which is three years older than that of overall single moms.

Most of these women are planning to continue their studies and be financially independent in the future. Despite the difficulties they may face, many of them agree that the life ahead is important for the both of them.

Such increase in these women may have been caused not only from the physical problems or outside pressures, but more from the changes in basic understanding about giving birth and raising the child as a single parent. According to the survey conducted by MOWF last year, when asked the reason for giving birth, the number of those who replied ‘because I wanted to raise the baby’ equals to that of ‘missed the timing for abortion or no money for it’, which shows that these women are making more choices to raise their own children than in the past.

However the financial problems remain as the most struggling issue they have to face. In many cases the decision to raise the child leaves the mother economically independent, as well as facing the social discrimination and prejudice. Even if she finds a job if her monthly income exceeds 800,000won(app.800$) then she is not qualified to receive the ‘Basic Living Guarantee Benefit’ so many just remains unemployed.

As for the cost of raising the child, the government supports 50,000 won(app. 50$) for each child under 5 years old. If the mother is working full time, the day care monthly cost would be 200,000~300,000 won per month. MOWF has a plan to expand the support up to primary school education.

Housing is not stable for these families as well. Those who join the institutions such as group home receive support from the government for medical and living expenses, but it is only acceptable for one year. Therefore many experts suggest developing more group homes where two to three such families would live together and receive necessary support such as vocational training and so on. There are only 17 group homes nationwide, and it is 110% over-fulled. Even in these group homes you are expected to stay only two years at the maximum and this leaves not so much choice for these families to settle down.

According to Han from Ae Ran Won, these young mothers are in fact very active in building their capacity to survive and settle down if only there can be an adequate support. Considering the cost that the government will have to manage when these women give up their children, the government support for single mothers is necessary.

At the society level, such single-parented families should be accepted as one of the various family forms in today’s Korean society. In order to widen such understanding, there are also some voices supporting the registration system which an unwed parent’s child can also be included in the family register.

Statistics From the Research Paper on ‘Welfare Services and Needs for Single Mothers in Group Homes’, 2006, Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs(KIHASA)

Motivation for Raising the Child

Because I am the mother – 75%
Planning to get back with the father – 10.7%
Better than adoption for the child – 7.1%
Advice from family/friends – 3.6%
Do not want to regret later – 3.6

Difficulties in Raising a Child as a Single Parent

Having no father might hurt the child’s feeling – 46.4%
Pressure from child raise, housework, financial support etc. – 25.1%
Stress from lack of confidence and capability – 14.2%
Is it good for the child? – 10.7%
Family members not accepting the child – 3.6

Personal Issues in Raising a Child as a Single Parent

Financial Issues – 78.6%
Social Prejudice and Stigma – 10.7%
Objection from family – 7.1%
Continuance with study – 3.6% 

Guest Columnist from Impoverished Women’s News

This article from Impoverished Women’s News has been translated from its original language into English for the benefit of our readers. This week’s guest columnist, writing in celebration of the upcoming Halloween holiday, is a very well-adjusted international, interracial, adolescent adoptee.

Happy Halloween

by 소펔유

When I was a baby, I was adopted internationally by a family that is of a different culture than where I come from, and that is of a different race than I am. But my adoptive parents help me keep in touch with my roots.

For example, about once every couple of weeks we eat together at a restaurant where they serve ethnic foods like bread and steak. When we go to the restaurant, I can see Caucasian people who look like me. My parents try to speak English to them so they can understand what we want to eat. They cook food for us and bring it to our table.  I like Caucasian people because they make good food. Bread is yummy. It is my favorite food.

On weekends I go to culture school. There I learn various culture like how to make bread. I can shake hands and eat with a fork and knife and other traditional customs. I also learn about traditional holidays of my birth country, like Halloween. I think Halloween is fun because you can pretend to be someone you’re not.

We also learn to write the alphabet of our birth country, like A B C D G P. I can say some phrases in my native language. For instance:

“It’s nice meet you.”

“What country do you come?”

“I am student.”


I think my language skills will come in really handy if I visit my birth country someday.

My favorite part of cultural classes is the dancing. Dancing is fun and it is traditional in my birth culture. We are learning the Square Dance. I hope that if someday I go back to my birth country, I will be accepted more because I can Square Dance.

I am a little worried, though, about going back to my birth country. That’s because secretly, Caucasian grown-ups scare me. I think that is bad to say and my parents would be sad if they knew I felt like that because they want me to be bicultural. But I have never been alone with Caucasian adults, and when I meet them in the restaurant, they talk to me in a way I can’t understand. They talk really fast and they make all these gestures. What is that.

I have some adopted friends who are Caucasian. I like hanging out with them because they know how I feel. I have this one friend whose dad says things like “cracker” in front of her, like if he gets mad at the TV or they get bad service in the restaurant, and that makes her sad. I’m sure glad I don’t have parents like that.

For the Halloween celebration at my culture school I’m going to dress up in native Caucasian dress. I will probably wear my beautiful Square Dance costume. I will probably get lots of traditional candy that Caucasian people eat.

Next week we are having a big celebration to greet a new Caucasian baby that is coming home to her adoptive family. I am sure glad that she will have a forever family to love her now. All my friends who are Caucasian have parents of the majority race. So when I meet real Caucasian people or Caucasian kids who were raised by real Caucasian people, I feel like, wow, I hope you’re not going to invite me to your house because if you serve anything but bread and steak, I don’t know what I’ll eat!!  (That’s because really, I only like bread and steak. Most of the other food kind of grosses me out.) 

I am interested in boys, but not Caucasian boys. I know some but they are kind of wimpy and nerdy. I suppose not all of them are like that, but when I get married, I think I’ll probably marry someone who’s more like my dad, not a wimpy nerdy Caucasian guy. Maybe someday I will also adopt a Caucasian baby from its country so it can have the opportunity to grow up with a real family with a mom and dad. I think every baby deserves that opportunity. I could give a baby a lot of love and opportunities. I am proud to be part of my adoptive country! I am happy to have a family who loves me!

 Happy Halloween!

LoB used in a neat way

Yes, I google myself.

So, I found Language of Blood being used in a class in a really neat way. The course is Studies in American Culture: Fear, Comfort, Risk taught by Christopher Wilson at Boston College. It looks like a really fascinating course. The unit LoB comes under is “Identity Thefts: Memory, Place, Markets” — big props to Dr. Wilson for calling a spade a spade!

NY Review of Books Fall Issue

It costs $3 more than it does in the U.S., but I can still get the NY Review of Books in Korea. Sweet. Yessssss.

In the Sept 27 issue, there’s a great review by Kwame Anthony Appiah called “What Was Africa to Them?” Although he doesn’t review Black Power in the article, Appiah foregrounds his entire review of five other books with Richard Wright’s book (which I am now going to order from What the Book, as I am completely over feeling guilty about having to buy every single book that I read since there’s no English-language library here!).

Anyway, I would love to post the whole review online, but I can’t, so how about one paragraph?

On Wright’s first day in the Gold Coast, a salesman in a store asked him whether he knew where his African ancestors came from. Wright recounts, “‘Well,’ I said softly, ‘you know, you fellows who sold us and the white men who bought us didn’t keep any records.'” What stands between Wright and Africa, in the end, is the history of slavery; for him, as for many children of the black diaspora, the Middle Passage represents both an undeniable link and an inescapable rupture.

Compare that with “inter”country adoption/adoptees returning to Korea — notice any similarities?
There is also just so much other good stuff in that article. My copy is all red now because of so much underlining.
I think if I ever went back to school, I’d study African American history, just because wouldn’t it be great to have a bunch of companions, literary and otherwise, who get it?

Lessons learned, fun to be had

Despite the fact that my romantic relationships have a tendency to end badly, I learn from each one. For that, I thank the men in my life! Konbae!!! glug glug glug …

 A lesson from earlier this fall was about money. Basically, I’m miserly toward myself. Sure, I’ll spend lots of money on dinner with friends, send money to charities, etc., but when it comes to myself, I could easily turn into one of those people who eats cold oatmeal every day in an effort to save money, and after I’m dead they’d find a million dollars stashed inside the mattress. HOWEVER, this fall, I learned that other people have no problem taking 3 million of my won and spending it. So I thought, why should I feel guilty about having fun with my own money? Other people don’t!

 This week’s lesson (which daily viewing of Oprah Winfrey on the American Armed Forces Network helped reinforce) is that one shouldn’t wait around to do the things one wants to do. If one is suddenly inspired to do all sorts of things when she makes a boyfriend, one should take that as a good sign that those are the things she wanted to do in the first place, and shouldn’t let the lack of a boyfriend a few days later stop her from doing them. For instance, if I were like that guy on Oprah who was about to die of pancreatic cancer, I would sure move my butt and do the things I want to do right now

 So here is what I’ve done with my life on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (besides go to work).

 1. Attended scary, mandatory, invasive military-like medical appointment for work. Though I wanted to cry on somebody’s shoulder about it later, I survived by only complaining to friends in detail over email. Began weightlifting programme on advice from doctor. Did a good job brushing my teeth, as mentioned below.

2. Confirmed that I am in the clear with the IRS.

3. Picked up Korean-issued Visa card in order to better buy things for me me me.

4. Registered stamp with district office in order to better sell my Hyundai Sonata.

5. Went to preliminary appointment at Teng Teng Skin Clinic. Hm… should I spend 600,000 – 2 million won getting my freckles taken off? This one is optional for me (I don’t see my own face anyway), but my Korean sisters are convinced this is a medical emergency… hm… still thinking….

6. Met up with the world’s nicest, most helpful car dealer, who sold my Hyundai Sonata for me on the base and got me into this nice little number (approximately):


A Hyundai Atoz!!!! I got my macho back on with a stick shift and made it from Itaewon to Gwanghwamun in a matter of minutes — I didn’t even know that was possible!!! It handles GREAT and gets 49 miles to the gallon. Awesome city car. Super-maneuverable, just the right amount of technology.

7. Talked with pretty secretary at work about getting my own parking space in the company ramp — no more standing outside in the cold waiting for the bus, and then standing out there again waiting to transfer!!

8. Booked airline ticket to Beijing. Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square — here I come!

9. Made reservation at the Jade International Youth Hotel for three nights. Ah yes, a weekend trip to China.


Looking forward to traveling alone for the first time since I started coming to Korea alone (sort of) and meeting all kinds of interesting strangers. Looking forward to seeing how it is, again, to be completely lost. Looking forward to being completely foreign.

10. Listened to criticism of my work with an open heart, telling myself that my company wants me to improve because they think I’m worth keeping, and they are helping me to improve by being specific.

 What might the rest of the week hold?

Worthwhile to me

I do a good job brushing my teeth.

The dentist said so when I went for my company health check. I still feel very good about my tooth brushing. I worked on brushing EVEN BETTER just 5 minues ago.

She said, “You do a good job brushing your teeth … and, you have a little calculus here.” So she whipped out a toothbrush and a set of fake teeth, and showed me how to “vibrate, not scrub” my lower incisors on the inside. And then she said, “You do a good job brushing your teeth.”

Sigh… so nice… I love you, dentist! Such wonderfully constructive suggestions for the brushing of teeth and the elimination of tartar!

I have to remember, the next time I’m about to massively fuck things up with someone I care about with my careless speech, that I should take a cue from the dentist and say, “You do a good job (insert behavior I like here) and there is (state existence of problem here quickly) so (state/show solution), and (repeat) you do a good job (insert behavior I like here).”

That is far better than saying, “I have been telling you for I don’t know how long that your method of toothbrushing sucks and your face is full of dental caries! You look like a pirate! Har matey! Why don’t you brush like I told you?”

I can remember to brush my teeth.

I will also remember to be mindful of the people I care about.

These kinds of things I have to figure out every day. I didn’t learn these things growing up. I learned how to order, nag, ignore, and guilt other people. I can do that well, without even thinking. That’s the problem — my automaton behavior.
So this is my long and lonely journey; this is a hard look in the mirror.
Figure it out every day. One step at a time, each day, I become more the person I want to be.

On hiatus

Shutting up until I have something worthwhile to say.