Monday, April 6, 2009

Trip highlight from Yoonkyung Shin, Program Associate

Yoonkyung Shin
Program Associate

The director and consultants of Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network (hereafter KUMSN) visited Seoul from late February to early March. Dr. Richard Boas (founder/director), Ms. Ellen Furnari and Dr. Cheryl Mitchell had actively participated to several ground meetings and public forums that were focused addressing the issue of Korean unwed mothers and their children.

Feb 24, 2009 KUMSN had participated to an informal gathering at Ko-Root with four of adoptee organizations (Ko-Root, GOAL, ASK, and TRACK) that serve for the needs of returning Korean adoptee. There were also a birth father, who had been looking for his son so hard at that time, and Mr. Hwang Pilgyu, a Korean human rights lawyer. Rev. Kim Do Hyun, Ko-Root representative, prepared nice breakfast for all of us and people were able to freely discuss about the various, the most current issues which are related to Korean unwed mothers, adoptee and birth parents. Personally, it was an interesting meeting of all, because the fact that birthparents, adoptee, and adoptive father had been involved in learning and discussing about the issue which affect their lives and, as far as I learnt so far, it does not happen often. There are many people who neither realize the facts that the unwed mother issue is highly correlated to the issue of intercountry adoption nor validate the relationships that the birthparents, the adoptee, and the adoptive parent have. However, at the Ko-Root meeting, those three persons (that consist of ICA) and their supporters (staff of organization) gathered listening and learning to each other and wished the best for each other. I felt it was meaningful. ,

I would like to introduce more about the birth father who attended the gathering at Ko-Root and love to share his recent news in his family. Searching for their son was a difficult journey for him and his wife. About a year ago, they had already agreed on relinquishing their baby for domestic adoption and the baby had already been sent to Korean adoptive parents (by the way, back then she was his girlfriend but they legally married after she gave a birth). Soon the birthparents realized that the choice was not made in the best condition with appropriate counseling, wanted to take their baby back from the adoption agency but the request was rejected. They had attempted variety of means of searching for their son. They did news paper interviews, uneasy negotiations with adoption agency staff, and attend to a number of related events (attending Ko-Root breakfast meeting was the one of the chances that he could appeal to public asking help). Now their son is with the birthparents and we all were exited about the wonderful news.

Another, there is good news right after KUMSN trip ended. On March 8, a day before the World Women’s day, the popular news programs of Korea TV stations had dealt with the unwed mother issue on the prime time. It begun with Arirang TV News and the other was SBS 8 News. KUMSN had actually influenced on both TV interviews directly and indirectly; Dr. Boas and Dr. Cheryl Mitchell had interviewed with Arirang TV reporter at the Ae-Ran-Won’s new community center and at the KWDI public forum. A child-rearing mother and Dr. Lee Mi Jeong, a KWDI research fellow, had an interview with SBS TV team. During the news, they focused on the current change in Korean society; giving birth and raising children out of wedlock is no more needed to be in shady spot and ignored. There are more women who choose to keep their children and the public perception towards unwed mothers has been shifting slowly, accepting the current change. However, there is still lack of government support, and the issue of the social stigma is challenging for the unwed mothers. That news introduced the KWDI forum and its research outcome as well.

One might consider this as a fine sign for the unwed moms and their children; Korean unwed mother issue is getting more public attention in Korean society. I hope the issue would continue to be maintaining on the public agenda so it would lead Korea to find its own best solution. I hope Korea would become more mature society that is willing to give a “second chance” to those brave women who choose to raise their children by themselves. Thank you.

You could watch the Arirang TV News and SBS News segment (it is in Korean language) below:

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