[EDITORIALS]Saving abandoned childrenWe Koreans have mixed feelings about the Korean Adoptee Gathering 2004. We are grateful to see participants there who grew up gracefully even though they were abandoned by their motherland and went through identity struggles. At the same time, however, we feel ashamed of what we have done to them. We neglected our duty to protect and raise them. We now express our gratitude to their foster parents overseas who raised the abandoned children to become healthy adults.
Korean children have been adopted overseas since the Korean War, when there were many orphans. It has been more than half a century since the war ended, and Korea today is the world’s 12th largest economy. Still, sending children overseas continues.
Each year, 2,200 to 2,400 children are adopted by Western countries, including the United States, while fewer than 1,600 children are adopted domestically. Moreover, such domestic adoption opportunities are mainly provided to normal children: Only about 10 handicapped children are adopted per year. Korea thus is stigmatized as a “country that exports orphans.”
The government has provided many measures to promote domestic adoptions. But with a long tradition of valuing blood lineage, domestic adoptions seldom take place.
The government now requires a new perspective on the adoption issue. As long as it only focuses on the adoption of abandoned children, it will not overcome the wall of “purebred tradition.” Thus, the government should change its policy direction so that the root cause of why children are abandoned can be identified and removed.
The reason for abandoning children in the 1950s was the war. In the 1960s and 1970s, it was poverty. But now, abandonment and adoption mainly arise from unmarried mothers. We believe ignorance about sex generates unmarried mothers. Thus, sex education for youth should be strengthened, online sex counseling facilities should be vitalized, and some institutional support to provide knowledge on contraception is necessary.
Also, the men who are the partners of the unmarried mothers should assume more responsibility. Here, a German law is a useful reference: In Germany, if an unmarried mother asks welfare agencies for help, the agencies are required to track down the father and let him take some responsibility for raising the child. Innocent children should not be abandoned any more.