KUMSN Translation Room
Miss Mammamia, Aspiring Being Independent rather than Receiving a Penny
The original article, 돈보다 자립바라는 미스맘마미아, was published in Sisa-in, a weekly Korean magazine, in Jan. 22, 2010, and translated by KUMSN. If you have any question, please contact KUMSN firstname.lastname@example.org
Reporter Jang Il Ho email@example.com
Miss Mamma Mia puts independence over money
There are women who make a life-altering decision for herself and her baby-unwed mothers. Generally, most people recall teens going astray when they hear the word-unwed mothers. Recently, there are growing numbers of 'Child-rearing Unwed moms in their 20's and 30's'. Even the government which announced its plans to increase the country's falling birth rate is falling far short of providing legal and economic protections for unwed mothers. 27.5 billion (* correction-12biilion) won was allocated for supporting unwed mothers this year. But it will be used mainly for the unwed mothers under 24 based on the Youth Protection Act. The child-rearing unwed mothers in their 20's and 30's only get 50,000 won per month from the government. Furthermore, high barriers of social stigma make them harder to find a decent job. What do the unwed mothers, Miss Mamma mia, really want in our society where they are invisible?
Kim Hyunmin (30, the assumed name) showed a photo which she downloaded on mobile phone wall paper with a short note, 'Poggeny D-day 77’. It was an ultrasound picture of the unborn baby in the womb (she dubbed the unborn baby as 'Poggeny') taken recently in an obstetrician. She suddenly asked a question, "Do you think the baby resembles me?" The baby's due day is April 3. Kim, would-be unwed mother, has to deliver the baby alone. She said, "Even if the baby's father were with me during labor and delivery, I would be full of fears to give a birth. But I have to be alone in a birth room. I couldn't sleep well these days because I'm not sure what I should do when labor pains starts."
She broke up with the baby's father when she was in the fifth month of pregnancy. The two promised to marry and he was happy with pregnancy, for the first time. But his attitude toward her and the baby changed as the time went by. He threatened her to abort and even hit hard her stomach several times. She suffered from verbal and physical assaults. In the end, she had no choice but to break up with him to protect the unborn baby. Even on the day when their relationship ended he was so mean that he said her, 'never and ever think of getting costs of bring up the baby from me', and 'you and the baby should not be an obstacles to my fresh start'.
Once her resolution had been weakening and she thought of abortion. She solidified her determination to give birth. Kim said, "I decided to protect my baby whose fate and life would be decided by my choice. He was too weak to protect by himself, everything was depended on my decision." Kim said she talked every night to her baby with her hands on the stomach, "Thank you for coming to me. I'll do everything for you."
Kim left the company where she worked for 7 years because she didn't want co-workers to know her pregnancy. She rented a small studio apartment which located far from her parents' house with the money she saved for marriage. She didn't know what she should do for the future. She made a lot of phone calls to get counseling and information about childbirth and childcare. Rather the centers persuaded her to relinquish the baby for adoption. Kim said, "counselors usually induce unwed mothers who want to keep their babies to get them for adoption. That is irresponsible conducts. Furthermore it doesn't make sense that the government puts a lot of time and efforts into devising measures to reverse the country’s falling birthrate while it turns blind eyes to unwed mothers."
Research conducted by the Ministry of Gender Equality found that the number of the child-rearing unwed mothers increased to 31.7% in 2005 from 5.8% back in 1984. A survey carried out in 2007 by Aeranwon, a shelter for the single and unwed mothers and their children, reported that at least 65% of the surveyed single mothers showed their willingness to raise their children. As for a standard of support, there have been no differences between now and twenty years ago, even though the number of the child-rearing unwed mothers has increased. Based on the Single Parent Family Welfare Act, the support from the government is limited to the low-income families. In fact, the unwed moms desperately need supports such as the child caring. Kim was not eligible to get free child caring since she is paying more public health insurance premium. That is 130 won higher than those who were in the category to receive free child care. Above all, it is almost impossible for the single moms like Kim to get a job. High and thick social barriers make it harder for the unwed moms who would like to get a job based on their work experiences.
Chung Yumi (37, the assumed name), dubbed as Seonghyun mom, raises her 5- year- old son and lives with her family. Having been fortunate enough, she also had gone through difficulties. Chung and her fiancé worked at the same company were preparing for the wedding before she got pregnant. She had no doubt to have her baby that time. However, her fiancé did not want to have the baby after he got the new. He said he would keep their relationship if she aborted the baby. Despite his coercion, she did not want to relinquish her child. To make things worse, her company continued to urge her to resign. Fortunately, she did not lose her job as her fiancé left the company, but she had to be strong enough to fight against she the prejudice from colleagues. It was not easy at all for her.
Her parents were at odds fiercely over the baby issue and got closed to divorce. Only one option left to her was to leave the house. She knocked about here and there to find a house to live with her baby. But with the money she had, she could get only basement or rooftop rooms in Seoul. She found herself delivering the baby in a facility for unwed mothers. It is impossible to make a reservation in a facility on the due day, so she had to call a countless number of facilities around the country to know that it was available to her. Some of them refused her and there were even some that said they only help teenage moms.
Compared to many other unwed mothers, she is fortunate enough that she lives in her parents' house now thank to her mother who tried to understand and protect her. Her mother, who is now looking after her baby, Sunghyun, 'made sacrifices' so that she got a job. Jung said, "I think I'm really so lucky that I get supports from my family. But there are many unwed mothers who are, unlike me. The government support currently only offers to people living in poverty. It should know what the unwed mothers really want; they want to be independent to continue their lives with their kid rather than a meager financial support, but no realistic measures are there".
40 years ago, the Australian unwed mothers also had to put their children up for adoption because of the lack of the benefits from the Social Security system. The single mothers who would like to bring up their children raised their voices by organizing the Council of Single Mothers and their Children (CSMC). They gave their opinions in the process of legislation, insisting the abolition of the discrimination against the children born to single mothers. In addition, they asked the government to implement the child-rearing service which would allow the single moms to juggle the child-rearing and work. Their enthusiastic attitudes spurred the government and the local communities to pay attention to unwed mothers and it expanded support for them.
In Korea, it was not so often for unwed moms to show such an enthusiastic attitude as well as organize the networks. Large number of organizations and groups are focusing on unwed teen mothers. The Korean Unwed Mothers Family Association organized by Chung Yumi and Kim Hyunmin represents the first Korean version of the Council of Single Mothers and their Children(CSMC) of Australia. Chung, the president of the association, said that she hopes, it will achieve a fruitful result, just like the CSMC of Australia although the beginning of the organization is humble.