1. The story I would like to tell while raising a child as an unwed mother
At first, I thought a lot about what kind of story I should tell. What I have felt while living as an unwed mother - to be honest, it has been very difficult. One problem is that the looks I got from people made my heart hurt. As though interested by the sight of me, with a young face and carrying a small child, they would start a conversation, but after they found out I was an unwed mother, their expressions would change. Because of those people, I was very upset.
People who have gotten to know me sometimes ask me these kinds of questions: hadn't I thought of abortion, had I really never once regretted having my child? With confidence, I answer: I knew I had to give birth to her, and I've never regretted it. When I say this, people are surprised and say that that is great. I don't know why having my child and not regretting doing so must be a great thing, but I think it might be that what they think is amazing is my thinking that way at a young age. When stories about abandonment or murder of infants are on the news, when they're done by women who've gotten married and had kids, people say every terrible thing, like that they are heartless moms or asking if they really are moms. But when teen mothers commit something like that, people generously understand like it is only natural. In this way, teen pregnancy and childbirth are not acknowledged as real by anyone. I'm not saying that they must be acknowledged. Just that I would like it if we were recognized as the mothers of children, no different from women who gave birth after marriage.
In the world I've experienced, living as an unwed mother, everyone is an assailant. In this society that socially murders us and looks at us critically, there is no place for an unwed mother to feel at ease raising her lovable child. I think that child abandonment and murder by teenage unwed mothers cannot easily be erased from this kind of society. No one in this world could blame those young women. I would be thankful if unwed mothers were treated with a little more generosity.
2. My requests (official, personal) for this era about these kinds of incidents
First, I would like to express my thanks to Pastor Lee Jong-rak for his protection of young lives. I had heard that there was something called a "baby box," in which one can safely leave an unwanted infant, in Japan, but I didn't know that they existed in our country too. I know that most people don't have a good opinion of them. I think that baby boxes are necessary. Be honest, they're a hundred, a thousand times better than abandoning a baby like an object in a subway storage locker. Before we call baby boxes illegal, I think we need to look into whether our country is taking action first, and if so, if that system is working properly. I think that the baby box not being forcibly closed down means that our national system is not perfect. I think we need to recognize Pastor Lee's sincere heart and not be stingy with our help.
I remember one time after I had given birth and was staying in an unwed-mother facility called a "doo-ree home," it had just turned to winter and it was a chilly night. A small child, who seemed about a week old and still had its umbilical cord attached, was left in front of the church upstairs. Seeing this illegal behavior straight out of a TV drama made me think, "Oh, this is something that really happens..." and feel that this reality was so regrettable. As a mother raising her child, wondering what kind of situation had caused that child's mother to abandon the little bundle of joy on a cold night made my heart hurt. After it was reported to the police, they found the child's mother within a day, but of course she had abandoned the child because she couldn't afford to raise it. When trying to raise a child, you run into a lot of walls. You have to have a place to live, you have to work, and you have to find a person or institution to take care of your child. These matters, which are hard even with two people, unwed mothers have to solve alone. As I see it, the mothers that try to manage all that alone are wonderful, but other people absolutely do not think so. In the hospital, I went through labor and gave birth to my child alone, heard not one word of congratulations, and ate seaweed soup to restore my strength alone. Knowing as well as anyone the loneliness of giving birth by oneself, when I hear about young girls in their teens abandoning or killing their children, I feel so sorry. They probably gave birth on a bathroom floor or an empty room, shaking with anxiety that someone might come in, and abandoning that child with their own hands, after carrying it inside for nine months, and not even being able to really hold it must be terrible. We can't turn away from those girls or those children. For them to live, for these girls and children that want to live, I think that a national image improvement campaign and many legal protections are necessary.
I had planned to return to school after giving birth, and after inquiring here and there, the school about which I vowed,"This is the last I will try," accepted me as a transfer student. I had only been going two days, though, when the principal told me he couldn't accept me after all. The school hadn't processed my transfer so I couldn't go to school anymore. After that, I went to the Commission on Civil Rights and the local Office of Education and told about my unfair treatment, but I didn't get any clear answers. I did an interview during that time when I had no choice but to give up going to school. Ms. Kwon Hee-jung was with me, and before the interview started, I asked, "By doing this interview, will I get to go to school again?" and Dr. Kwon and the interviewer seemed embarrassed, and replied, "No, but because of you, girls in a similar situation will become able to go to school." I remember their expressions as they said this. Now I can smile when I tell this kind of story, but at that time, learning that I couldn't go back to school made me despair again. Luckily, however, after that a law was created so that they say unwed mothers like me can now continue their studies. I have no way of knowing if this law is being followed. I think that this is another area in which the country should step forward to solve the problem. National image improvement, which is the biggest problem and very difficult to effect, is the largest task that our nation has. It is my greatest wish that our image changes gradually, so slowly as to be unnoticeable, so that people can think the change is natural.
3. A final word
I wish for people understand that like a butterfly that has just emerged from the chrysalis, like a goldfish in a bowl, they seem like they are in danger and too young to know how to do anything, but they are flapping vigorously not to fall to the floor and swimming as well as they can not to sink. It is a very impulsive time and they are feeling conflict and stress, but those people also clearly want to live and were born to live. Please look after them as their lives go on. What they want more than anything is affectionate concern and a helping hand. On behalf of many people, I would like to thank the people gathered here who have so much concern for our youths and unwed mothers. Thank you.