In Dec. 11, KUMSN was introduced in the segment of Small Changes, TBS eFM 101.3 MHz. Please leran more about us by listening to this wonderful report done by Ms. Kim Jyounhg-Ah.
Lee: Welcome back to Seoul of Asia everybody. It’s now time for small changes where we
learn about how we can give back to the world a little bit at a time by
volunteering, donating or just spreading the word about issues that matter.
We have Jyoung-ah Kim with the House of Sharing
International Outreach team with us in the studio today. Hello there Jyoung-ah Kim, how are you today?
Kim: Hey John. Thanks for having me and honestly
you know thanks for having this segment.
It really is a really important segment and the more people I talk to
its just like, “Hey that’s a great segment.”
You know, it really is because as the face
changes, we begin to realize that our issues begin to surface. Things have been somewhat suppressed. So as
we learn more about disenfranchised people and the more we learn about of just
the wealth of diversity here, it’s important to talk about it and find out what
we can do.
And there really is still so much to
do. It’s nice to have a segment where we
can talk about each organization and each issue and say hey here are the
telephone numbers, here are the email addresses, websites, let’s contact them.
Lee: And I often hear from people that volunteerism
is relatively new in Korea, like say, compared to parts of the west, but boy it
has really taken on a life of its own in a big way, which is really great to
Kim: Let’s get on it. There is so much information
Lee: So, let’s talk about the Korean Unwed Mothers
Kim: Yes, KUMSN are the acronyms and it is, of
course, the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network.
Kim: Let’s talk about how the organization began
first because I think that is the issue that really is the underlying point
here. It was first started by a man named Dr. Richard Boas.
He is an American who lives in the United States and in 1988 he and his family decided
that they would like to adopt a child and they happen to adopt a baby girl from
Korea and, of course, raised
her this entire time in the United
But, because he wanted to learn more about
the issue of adoption in general and the country that his daughter is from, he
came to Korea in 2006 for the first time and at that time, he made a point to
visit all the different orphanages, as well as, the social welfarers’ society
facilities; and in Daegu, he actually got a chance to meet a lot of these
single women and mothers and learn their stories and realize that he was kind
of blind to the circumstances that he thought that you should know having
adopted an unwanted child or perhaps an orphan, if you will, an abandoned child
perhaps is a better way to say it.
He thought he didn’t understand the story
behind it and when you actually start to meet the women and hear their stories
then you’re like, oh wow, it’s such a deeper rooted issue than you realized; and
he didn’t realize, sadly, that the circumstances of these unwed Korean mothers,
that the Government support is just not where it should be to be able to help
support them financially and sadly, yeah, I think, the social stigma, it really
is also still very difficult for women to try to bring up their own children
and so you realize, oh wow, that’s great that yeah maybe I can adopt a child, but
at the same time, lets try to have these women bring up their own children that
they want to bring up, but because they didn’t have the actual financial
support or their social support, weren’t able to. A real interesting quote he said, “It is
painful to see any woman give up her child simply because the government and
people, particularly family, are not willing to support her”
Interviewer: And that is a very, very sad thought, indeed.
You know, we have three clips and I want to make sure we get through all of
them today. We have one it’s an interview with a Korean adoptee. Yes, when I got a chance to interview with
KUMSN, it was perfect timing that they were actually interviewing a new
volunteer and he’s got a really interesting story.
Lee: Ok, let’s listen.
Rhee: I came because I found my birth mother and I
stayed here for three weeks and then that’s actually when I found out that I
was moving over here.
Lee: Why are you interested in volunteering with
Rhee: I guess, like I said, I can relate because my
mother gave me up because she was a single, unwed mother.
And then also growing up in the states with
parents divorced and my mom raised us and she didn’t get remarried until we all
went off to college. So, I feel, like
maybe, I have a connection.
My father died right after I was born and
she couldn’t support me financially and, I think, that’s why she had to give me
up. I’m not quite sure if there was any
kind of other social stigmas that were going through her head, I haven’t dug
that deep into it, but that’s what she said.
I feel like there is nothing I can do to
change my past so I just look toward the future because I can somewhat dictate
what happens in my life so it doesn’t bother me. I am here now and that is all
that matters to me.
made by Janine Gross
John Lee: It just
sounds like a rather incredible and emotional journey that Tyler’s been on.
Kim: His name is Tyler Rhee. He’s a Korean adoptee
who grew up in Kentucky and he’s got an interesting story. He originally came
to Korea for his honeymoon in 2008. But he was searching for his birthmother.
He married a Korean American who speaks very good Korean. With the help of his wife, he was able to
find his birthmother in May of 2011. He came
back and that was when he realized his wife, who was in the Korean military,
was going to be stationed and working in Korea.
He’s unemployed so he’s got a lot of time on his hands. He went to KUMSN
who’s also jointly working with Mamma Mia, which is the actual organization
that works directly with the unwed mothers. He said, “I’ve got a lot of time so
whatever you need, just put me to work.”
John Lee: Wow
fantastic. So now he is just going to be jumping into it wholeheartedly.
Jyoung-ah Kim: Yes.
John Lee: Let’s talk a little bit more about the issue itself. Tell us or
inform us please.
Jyoung-ah Kim: Sadly, the
laws are set up where it is not conducive for unwed mothers to bring up their
children. First of all, the Korean government right now is actually the equine is
called the한부모가족지원법(Hanbumogajokjiwonbub)which is a one parent family supporting law. Right now it’s only
roughly about 50,000 won a month, which is about $50 a month. It is interesting
because if anybody adopts a child they will receive about 100,000 won a month,
which is double the actual amount and there is no stipulations on this one. For
the 50,000 won a month that’s also only awarded to women that make a certain
income and to women who are not already associated with a maternity home that
is helping them give birth to their child. See, it’s really difficult to even
be awarded this in itself. At the same time, the Korean government sees this as
an issue. They are trying. The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family recently
passed a new budget to the Ministry of Finance and Planning with a 12 billion
won allocated support, which his a huge amount.
John Lee: That’s kind of promising.
Jyoung-ah Kim: Sadly, only
5% of the funds are being used right now because once again the stipulations
are set up where it’s so stringent to actually receive the funds right now that
it’s difficult. And one of the reasons I think is that there’s not enough
research. One of the reasons why we are talking about this right now is not
enough people talk about this. They haven’t researched this and therefore the
funds are not going to the women that need them. When you think of unwed
mothers, most people think of young teenagers. And so yes, this 12 billion won
that was allotted was actually for girls ages 18 -24. Little do they realize
that most of the unwed mothers are now in their 30s and there’s absolutely no
support for those women. Also, for the
women who are between 18 – 24 once again there are other stipulations. If a
woman is pregnant and they come to their family usually they do get kicked out
of their family.
It doesn’t matter
whether you’re in Korea or the U.S. or Europe. It is difficult for them
emotionally. So then they do go to a different non-profit organization that
tries to help them financially. But then, if you go to them again then they are
not allotted these funds.
Now you know I want to just move into the
organization itself really quickly. They are doing a lot of good work. I
understand you actually had a conversation with the director.
Jyoung-ah Kim: Yes, her
name is Kwan, Hee Jung. She’s the director here in Seoul. There’s a U.S. office
and a Korean office. I believe we have a clip of her right now.
John Lee: Allright let’s listen.
Hee Jung Kwan: I was confident
about myself. I know all the issues about women. But the thing is I don’t have
any knowledge about this situation. And all the mothers were saying this is the
issue. All the families and Korean society should know about this and then I
really became passionate about informing, and educating people about this
Feminism so far
talked about maternity in the marriage system, such as how the maternity is
sacred work by the patriarchal society and then their labor is used for free.
The maternity issue in the marriage system, but the motherhood of unwed mother
out of the marriage system is something we never talked about the motherhood.
Transcript made by Jaemi Owers
Jung Kwan: Nobody talks about this very silent issue
so far. It should be talked.
John Lee: You know, let's talk about the organization's main objectives.
Kim: Yes, and you
know, I just, I quickly realized that I said 2011 and we're not in 2011 for the
Tyler Rhee's segment that we were talking about. It was 2010 this year is
when he.. (laughs)
John Lee: Ah, Jyoung-ah, always thinking into the
Kim: To me, it's
alright, I've already clicked over, it's 2011. But yes, no Kwan Hee Jung,
interesting story, ah, I like the clip because it really did talk about how,
you know what, she's working on her master's here, she's working on her Phd.
She was actually doing her master's in Australia with an interesting program
but she realized that she was juggling so much as being a woman, a mother,
trying to work on a career and it was difficult and she was also a feminist and
worked on a couple of different feminist issues and you know, she thought,
"I know everything sabout women's issues", and when she came into KUMSN,
the Korean Unwed Mother's Social Network, she generally thought, "yeah (a
little bit) I know what's going on". But now, it's such an interesting,
deep-rooted issues that she learned so much more about.
John Lee: It's a very dynamic issue and it's kind of
complicated. I know that, uhm, we've talked about this on the show. Back in the
80's, it was kind of a black-eye for Korea because during the Olympics,
commentaters mentioned how Korea was a baby exporting nation and it really
really got actually - just struck at the heart of the issue and embarrassed a
lot of folks and now it's actually in the forefront and there are people coming
up and supporting unwed mothers and it's uh, fantastic that there are
organizations like this exist because it's a reality.
Kim: It's a
John Lee: And we have to talk about reality and can't
keep brushing it under the rug. Not anymore.
John Lee: Okay, let's talk a little more about the
objectives here. It's a fairly complicated issue.
Kim: It is. And
of course they want to focus on the wome solely and empower them. Everything
from education, English skills, trade skills and so on and so forth. Helping
them with education and job training and counseling. There's also scholarships
of different things but also scholarships to do more research in the community,
to talk to the Korean government and make sure that these 12 billion dollar,
excuse me, 12 billion won funds get appropriated correctly. They're also trying
to work on the current legal system because there's also an unwed father's
responsibility law, but it's not being actually implemented. So they're working
on legal efforts as well.
course, just overall improved sex education in the public school system and
just public awareness of what's going on and the need there. Other ways, let me
just go ahead and throw in the website. It's KUMSN dot org. Of course you can
just aso put in the keywords, "Korean Unwed Mother's Social Network"
and they also work with very closely with Miss Mama Mia. And Miss Mama Mia is
the organization that directly works with the unwed mothers. KUMSN is more
about trying to work on the social issues and the legal issues.
John Lee: Okay, so they're more or less a business
office of Miss Mama Mia who's actually the organization who takes care of the
Kim: And there's
approxiametely 400 members who are active. Different women who come in and they
do different things from... They're also working with the Salvation Army, The
Beautiful Store and there's different cafes where you can bring in actually
anything from used clothes to toys for the children and also just, you know, I
brought in like my accessories, my earrings and necklaces because we're all
women and we like little things like that.
John Lee: We need to recycle those things that aren't
being used by us anymore. And quickly here, before we run out of time, can you
say the website address again?
Kim: Yes. KUMSN
dot org or you can also email KUMSN at KUMSN dot org, the email address.
John Lee: Well, Jyoung-ah, thank you so very much for
another insightful discussion.
Kim: Thank you so
much. If anybody wants to help out with volunteering, anything from time,
education and of course, donations are always accepted.
John Lee: Absolutely right. Thank you so much. We'll
talk to you next week.
Kim: Thank you
John Lee: Alright everybody, that's going to do it for
us today. Up next is...
made by Nicole Shapiro