[FOUNTAIN]The Mother Is Not Needed Any Longer

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[FOUNTAIN]The Mother Is Not Needed Any Longer

During Choson period, when men assume superiority over women under the Confucian value system, a husband could divorce his wife and send her away, legally, if the wife committed one of seven acts considered disgraceful. Among the seven prohibitions, not obeying parents-in-law and failure to give birth were considered the most severe breach of duty. The other five disgraces were infidelity, jealousy over concubines, theft, having an incurable disease and being too talkative. These are outdated customs that originated from a book containing the dialogues Confucius had with his followers.

But there were also three things husbands were prohibited from doing. A husband could not expel his wife, though she committed one of the seven disgraces, if she had no parents to return to, her parents had been in mourning within the preceding three years, and she had made a considerable contribution to the family. If a husband, in disregard of the three rules of prohibition, banished his wife, he would be subjected to 80 lashes with a cane.

To prevent wives from being ousted for not bearing a male heir, people invented surrogate mothers or "seed bearers". The husband and wife agreed to adopt a surrogate mother as a way of bearing a child who would take over the family. The surrogates were usually poor widows or young women from families with humble backgrounds. They were secretly selected and a date set. About 28 hours after the surrogate mother stopped ovulating, the husband and the surrogate mother started sharing a room. During this time, the wife eased her pain, caressing her heart, outside the room. When the baby was still an infant, the wife gave money to the surrogate mother and sent her away. The family pretended it was their own child.

Hahn Hwa-kap, a member of the Supreme Council of Millennium Democratic Party, alluded recently to the surrogate mother theory, speaking to the so-called Donggyo-dong faction, long-time supporters of President Kim Dae-jung.

He said although they worked to elect President Kim, the fate of the Donggyo-dong camp is like that of a wife in the Choson period who had to make way for a surrogate mother, shedding tears with sighs, though the wife recruited the surrogate to bear a son. However, there were cases where a first wife, who could not bear a child, yielded authority to a concubine or second wife, but not to a surrogate mother.

This is not the time to argue whether a legitimate wife or surrogate mother gave birth to a baby boy. More important, the Donggyo-dong camp should raise the baby well and healthy and have the baby succeed. But can we say the baby is healthy now?

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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