[EDITORIALS]Don't let children suffer

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[EDITORIALS]Don't let children suffer

A total of 135,000 married couples divorced in 2001, the National Statistical Office reported Wednesday. That number works out to 2.8 divorces for every 1,000 people, the world's third-largest break-up rate.

People get married to live a happy life. They may discover later in the marriage that they were not meant to be or the love that seemed eternal changes. In modern day life, where the pursuit of individual happiness comes first, divorce can correct a bad choice.

The problem is that the pain of divorce is suffered mostly by the children, who in the worst case are left in foster care institutions.

Seventy percent of the couples who divorced had one or more children under 20 years old, the National Statistical Office's numbers show. In 2000, 9.4 percent of households were headed by one parent, lower than the 10.6 percent in 1970 when there were 0.4 divorces per 1,000 people. The children of divorce placed in foster-care institutions increased to nearly 9,000 in 2001, up from 7,760 in 2000.

What the figure suggests is that people are thinking differently and some parents no longer consider it their duty to raise their own children. But laws and the system have not caught up with this change to provide better child welfare. The court can seize alimony payments, but the civil court process is lengthy and by the time it is complete, the parent may have no money left after paying legal fees.

In the case of the United States, an alimony delinquent can be held liable by civil and criminal courts for contempt, and can be detained. If neither parent comes forward to care for the child, these natural parents must pay the alimony to foster parents. In Britain, France and Australia, the government levies divorce charges on divorced couples so that the children can be placed in foster homes.

The Korean government should lose no time to come up with measures so that children of divorced homes whom neither parent claims responsibility for will not be deserted twice.

Once by their parents, and the second-time around by the state.
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