Why we must help single moms...
Ten years ago, in the alley across from the British Embassy where I used to work, I would find, on my way home after work, little children left standing next to huge suitcases. People had found out that I was involved in the foster care movement, and this was the way that parents, faced with hard economic times, would put their kids into my care. I would watch through my rearview mirror as parents, who had been hiding, watched to make sure that their children got into my car, and then left their hiding spot, weeping. There was even a day when I had six children stuffed into my tiny Kia. Over a hundred children have passed through my hands in that way—the children went into society once they became adults, after as long as eight years. If not for foster care, the lives of these children would have either gone through international adoption or through some terrible times. These ties eventually became what is now the Korean Foster Care Association (www.ngopower.net).
After ten years have passed, the events that should have become memories of the past are still repeating. A few days ago, a single mom in her twenties came to the KFCA office in Seoul. A “single mom” is what we call a woman who, wed or unwed, raises children without a husband. With the mother is a five-year old girl, holding a teddy bear, and the mother, 6 months pregnant, is bearing the weight of two large bags. This is the fifth family just this month. These families find their way to the Association’s office, to the rented room in Itaewon, and even to my apartment building. Since the end of last year, a total of 124 single moms and children have found their way to me in this way, each with a different story.
The work of our association is to provide shelter and to help these families become independent. While these families stay at the temporary shelter, they look for homes outside the city, phoning various places with our help. They are looking for a place to stay once the children are old enough to be put in childcare.
In 1980 I once escorted a child to be adopted in the U.S., through Holt Children’s Services. In the plane, the child made a promise to herself to “study hard while living with her adoptive parents, and later take care of her mother back in Korea.” Once she caught sight of her adoptive parents at the airport, however, the child suddenly ran into my arms, frightened. “Can’t you just take care of me?” she pleaded, hanging onto me for dear life. As I tore the child away from me and walked away in tears, what I resolved to do was to “raise our children on our land, in our home.”
I don't mean that we should help because I merely feel sympathy for single moms and their children. For economic activity, a population is necessary, but that the Republic of Korea, in the time of low birthrates and an aging society, will become a “vanishing nation” is already old news. Every day the birthrate of unwed mothers, however, is rising in our country. They are ultimately the future producers who will inject young blood into Korean society, and will become the companions of the older population. Western countries have run support projects for unwed mothers for as long as 40 to 70 years. We need to support single moms and multicultural women, if only to escape the disgrace of the staggering 1,000 abortions conducted per day. The undoubtable reason, to support these families with human compassion, is here.
I’d like to thank POSCO and Community Chest of Korea for support in publishing this book.
Representative Young Sook Park, The Millennium Project