Helping our single mothersDr. Richard Boas is an American ophthalmologist, with two biological children, who adopted a four-month-old Korean girl in 1988. He was pleased to have a new baby daughter and was proud that he had done the right thing, so he volunteered to support international adoption after his retirement. However, when the sad faces of pregnant women in their teens and 20s at a facility for unwed mothers in Daegu confronted him, his life changed.
He was deeply shocked to witness the pain of young mothers who were coerced or outright forced to give their babies up for adoption due to social or economic oppression.
Realizing the urgent necessity to help single mothers raise their babies on their own rather than putting them up for adoption, he devoted his private fortune to found the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network in 2007. He aided and promoted relevant research initiatives and encouraged unwed mothers to support themselves through the nation’s only nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to advocating for the interests of single mother families. Many unwed mothers who had no one to turn to extolled his accomplishments, calling him a godfather for unwed mothers.
We have averted our eyes from the single parent problem. Boas’s devotion to duty puts us to shame. He asks, “It is a basic human right for a mother to raise her child on her own. Then why does such a rich country as Korea fail to protect the basic rights of these women?” And we have no answer.
Dr. Boas hopes that his activities will serve as a catalyst to encourage change in the Korean community. Only 1 percent of unwed mothers in the United States give their babies up for adoption, while 70 percent of unwed Korean mothers give up their children. He has said his intention is to lay the foundation for eradicating prejudice and discrimination, which are the true culprits behind this tragic reality.
Last Wednesday, many unwed mothers attended the forum “Reality of Unwed Mothers and Support Measures for their Self-Reliance,” which was sponsored by Dr. Boas and hosted by the Korean Women’s Development Institute. They resolutely said, “We are not criminals, but responsible people who are raising our own children.”
If Korea continues to treat them like criminals and remains reluctant to give them support, we will never find a way to clear ourselves of our reputation as an “orphan exporter.” In all, 1,250 babies were parted from their mothers at birth and adopted to foreign countries in 2008. It is high time Korean society stood at the forefront of devising measures to help these children live happily together with their moms.