Sunday, August 29, 2010
Dr. Boas' reflections on the August 2010 trip
What made this trip, my 9th, particularly rewarding, is that the issue of unwed moms and their children has become quite visible, and very much on the "radar screen." Forums such as the ones in Jeju and Gyeonggido--with active participation at both by unwed moms themselves--and government officials in attendance, were a wonderful demonstration of the active interest in the moms' situation, and ways of addressing it. I was so glad to hear the matter discussed at the recent IKAA Conference, which also included a joint presentation between an unwed mom and adoptee about their joint business venture--so that adoptees themselves are now more aware, and in a position themselves to address the issue.
The moms themselves are increasingly coming forward. I long ago lost count of the number of media interviews they have granted. May their numbers, voices and impact increase, in the cause of a socially just and truly democratic Korea. A recent "first," which we were so pleased to be an audience to, was a joint meeting between the newly-formed unwed moms' organization, Miss Mammamia, and Hanbumo Association. They have much common ground.
Not only is the matter of assistance for unwed moms very much an issue, the type of assistance is being increasingly discussed. Our belief--and that of the moms--is that these single-parent families are best supported in the community. Not only is this more cost-effective, it keeps moms and their children in the community, where they belong, and helps to decrease the stigma against them.
A group that I want to see become more involved is the Korean philanthropic community--corporations, foundations and individuals. Existing NGO's working for the moms, as well as a new one, formed by the moms themselves, need assistance. I am so heartened by the great interest shown by Korea Foundation for Women. This need is real, Korea itself is responsible for--and capable of--addressing the issue.
It was a pleasure and privilege to meet and speak with Professor David Smolin, a US legal scholar, now very much aware of problems of Korean adoption and Korean unwed moms. I welcome his continued interest in and help.
Since I began my work on behalf of Korean unwed moms, I have been saddened by the belief among Koreans that the mother alone is blamed for her pregnancy, and saddled with the responsibility for child-rearing and financial support of herself and her child. So many have been pressured--by families and by fathers-to-be--to get an abortion (96% among pregnancies of unwed women in Korea) or to give up her child to adoption, lest the reputation of the father or either family be ruined. This is unfair, unjust and discriminatory. Unwed fathers' responsibility is becoming increasingly discussed in Korea, and taken seriously, an important step. Koreans we spoke with "got it" when I quoted a US academic article which states that when men are held responsible for the children they father, birthrates go down.
We are delighted to assist Salvation Army/Duri Home in setting up a new Thrift Store/Coffee Shop in Seoul. Not only do we hope this will become a viable business (as existing stores are), but provide employment and valuable business experience for unwed moms. It was exciting to hear from the moms who will be working there. I look forward to my white chocolate mocha at the new store.
A big "thank you" to KUMSN staff for everything you do on behalf of social justice and progress for the moms and their children. I remain confident that Korea will solve this issue, and am proud we are playing a part.