Friday, November 12, 2010

KWDI Study on Moms Published

As a "respectful outsider," I see my role as one of raising the visibility of the issue of unwed Korean pregnant women, mothers and their children, supporting efforts by Koreans (including academics, the media, government, service providers, and the moms themselves) to make better lives for them, and catalyzing change.

It is has been particularly satisfying to work with our friends at Korean Womens Development Institute, whose studies on the issue are already having an impact. KWDI just released their eagerly-awaited and much-needed study How to Improve Government Welfare Services for Low-Income Unwed Mothers in Korea, by Drs. Lee Mijeong and Kim Hyeyoung and their colleagues. Though the situation of unwed Korean moms is getting increased attention, and moms are receiving some increased support, prejudice and discrimination against them are still commonplace. Moms--especially the older moms--are not receiving the support they need.

The study discusses the moms' situation, needs, difficulties they experience, what support is available (and what the moms report they receive), and makes policy recommendations. Here are some significant (and timely) points:

1. Moms age 24 and under receive the most benefits, yet over 77% of unwed moms are 25 and older. Support needs to be based on the child's age, not the mother's.
2. Many moms don't know what benefits are available. Moms report that local welfare office employees are underinformed re: benefits, and are rude to them.
3. Though there are laws which grant maternity leave and prohibit discrimination at work, these are not enforced.
4. Unwed fathers need to be held responsible for their children; mothers need to be able to bring action without fear of reprisal.
5. Childcare allowance is insufficient.
6. A comprehensive database and statistics on unwed moms are needed.

KUMSN is proud to have underwritten this study, and we hope that this scholarly study from a highly respected Korean research institute will help change attitudes, catalyze change, and bring about policies that will benefit the moms and their children, so that they become true equals in Korean society.

Richard Boas, MD
Founder and President, KUMSN