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% 


6 responses to “Increased Number of Unwed Mothers Raising the Child on their Own

  1. This is really interesting for me to read. I know its an older post, but it is really enlightening to me. I hear often on adoption forums how society is regecting its single mothers and their children in Korea and that the stigma of illegitimate children is pushing mothers into surrender. But this article gives me hope that this isn’t true. I have never been there. I am a domestic adoptee in the US, but I am trying to learn as much as I can about adoptees everywhere and whats going on with the laws in surrounding countries. Thank you for your site, keep posting we need you for the adoptee rights movement!!

  2. i am looking for a home for me and my baby
    for supportm iam due april 6 2009
    ineed to get out of my current situation


  3. Hello, Jane.
    I will kill you.

  4. I will kill you.

  5. I am a pregnant foreign English teacher. I have worked for my school for 1 year and 3 months. I informed them this week that I am expecting. My intentions were to explain I will be collecting maternity leave pay. The reaction was initially positive, but when they found out I will most likely be alone when I have the child, they told me I need to have an abortion to keep my job, or I will need to leave in two or three months. The reasons the directors of this private school have given are that my pregnancy will produce a bad image for the school and they don’t know what to tell the children. Parents and children at my school do not know if I am married or not. If I were to get married to another foreigner, it would involve our embassies only. I plan on fighting to keep my job, and be treated fairly. I recorded a meeting with my employers in which they admitted my possible dismissal will be a result of my pregnancy as a single mother and nothing to do with my job performance. They were very angry when they found out at the end of the meeting that I had been recording them. They yelled at me and told me it is illegal to record someone without their consent. I told them I recorded them to talk to a lawyer and because I feel I need help. After finding out I had recorded them, they seemed to change their mind about helping me. We are having another meeting on Monday. I don’t know how this will turn out, but I would like to say that I know as an American I have a belief in my rights. Both my manager and director told me, “this is Korea, we are different, we don’t fight for rights.” This leads me to wonder how many Korean single mothers are forced out of jobs unfairly, or forced into abortions. I found your article very interesting. My employer told me it “is a very bad thing to be a single mother in Korea, and I have never heard of anyone being a single mother.” I am posting because I know my email address will not be made public. I cannot tell where I am or at which school this is taking place, because I would be producing a bad image for my school, which would be an actual reason to fire me.

  6. dianne taylor

    hi Jane – I wonder if you can help. I am a screenwriter in the early stages of writing a feature film script which includes a Korean single mother who gave birth and kept her baby in 1992. I realise that this would not have been the norm in Korea at this time and wonder if you have any insight into what difficulties and issues a single mother would have faced at that time if she did not have the support of her family. Were there homes for single mothers? Any financial support? Or did they have to make it on their own? Be great to hear from anyone out there who has some experience or insight into this.
    Cheers and many thanks, Di.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I no longer have time to update this blog regularly, but I appreciate your comments, even though I cannot respond to all of them. All comments (except spam) have been allowed to go through unmoderated since June 16, 2014. Any comments you see prior to that date have been read and approved by me. Thanks again, and wishing you peace and blessings.

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