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%