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The original article, 당당한 엄마로 살고싶어요, was published in Yeosung Shinmoon (Women News) in Jan. 8, 2010, and translated by KUMSN. If you have any question, please contact KUMSN firstname.lastname@example.org
"We organized this community to help single mothers speak up for their rights to parent their kids as a member of society in Korea without social bias and stigma."
Around 170 members of an on-line community, Naver café 'Happy Missmommamia' are preparing for setting out the Korean Unwed Mother Family Association this month. They include unwed mothers, single mothers, professors, and researchers. For starters, the community plans to make it an authorized organization by registering it with the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs (MIHWF) or Seoul City Hall. Then it will work to change the way people think of unwed moms and spearhead efforts to legislate a law about biological fathers' responsibility for parenting and to amend Adoption Act and so on. It has solidified its base by having a regular meeting twice a month since last March.
Mok kyung hwa, 37, representative of the community, criticized the current welfare policy on unwed mothers -almost here is none in Korea -, and talked about difficulties the unwed mothers face.
"Divorced mothers are also single moms. But they, unlike unwed ones, can get financial support from their family and the society and social prejudice against the divorced moms have been abolished much compared to the past. But the situation is quit different for the unwed moms. Even their families turns away from them so their anguish is unbearable."
There are examples. Despite good job qualifications, an unwed mother failed to pass the final job interview every time. She could finally get a job after putting her child on other family member's family register. Another unwed mother who has her own hair salon, has lost almost half of her customers after the fact that she is an unwed mother was known to them. Most young people and men of her customers don’t care about it, but housewives do. Rep. Mok has an experience of being embarrassed by officer prying into the reason of why her child has no father during her visit to a community center to put her kids on her family register in 2005.
Members of the community believe that social bias against unwed mothers has been reflected on adoption. Largely due to the fact that more than 90% of adopted children are from unwed mothers, people have a deep-rooted prejudice that unwed mothers are women who abandon their kids with no sense of responsibility. However Mok claims unwed mothers decision to get their child adopted is partly caused by insufficient support policy for them and adoption agencies’ incitement to it rather than their choice.
"It is the best that children live with their parents for their happiness. However, adoption agencies try to take them apart. They hand out them documents, like an affidavit of waiver of parental right, rather than give information and help them when unwed mothers come to get consulted. They even advise them to get their unborn child adopted. What is more needed under the current situation is to help abandoned children to be adopted. What I am more concerned about is Korean culture that prevents real mothers from raising their kid, though they want to do."
MIHWF provides adoptive families with monthly foster care payments of 100,000 won (for adopted children under age 13) and Category 1 medical aid (with full coverage) regardless of their monthly income. While it only offers 50,000 won to single parent families with kids under 10 only satisfying requirements that their monthly income is under the amount of 130% of minimum cost of living.
There are only a handful of support programs by MIHWF that help unwed mothers to enter a legal action against biological father to identify the child as their own (including DNA testing) and to make them take responsibility for fatherhood.