Why are so many infants abandoned?

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Why are so many infants abandoned?


“What kind of mother would abandon a baby just because there is a box? Because these mothers have some reasons to give up their babies.” Pastor Lee Jong-rak explained. His church, Jesus’s Love Community Church in Nangok-dong, Seoul, has the only “baby box” in Korea, where unwanted babies can be left anonymously. I called him for an interview because the number of abandoned infants has gone up in the first year the Special Adoption Law went into effect. I had no prejudice against the baby box, but Pastor Lee did not lower his guard.

“The problem is that so many babies are still abandoned even in these prosperous times. In what way does the baby box encourage abandonment? It is a box that saves lives who would otherwise die. Instead of criticizing irresponsibility and cowardice, you’d better come up with a plan.”

He said he has been criticized for “encouraging abandonment” as his church has operated the baby box for the past three years. He has received several notices to remove the box, and some organizations have protested at the church. He argued that people ignored the problem when babies were secretly abandoned, but once the issue became public, they blame the baby box for the inconvenient truth.

“In the last three years, the baby box received 280 children, and 200 of them came in the past year. The adoption law may be partially responsible for the increase in number,” Lee said.

Pastor Lee said that the Special Adoption Law is the wrong solution. The law requires the biological parent to register a birth in order to give up a child for adoption. The purpose was to protect the rights of the adoptees - to help them to later track down their families. However, most abandoned children are born to unmarried mothers, who give up their babies secretly because they don’t want anyone to know they’ve given birth.

“Because of the law, the children left in the baby box without a birth certificate cannot be adopted,” he said.

I am curious if the causes for abandonment is the law and the baby box. Some say that getting an abortion is increasingly difficult and people have become more promiscuous. Who can say a birth is right or wrong or question the sanctity of life?

Nevertheless, single mothers and their children are not welcome in our society, and few social protections are provided for them. We may have created an environment in which a single mother can’t raise a child on her own, and it might be the main reason why these children are abandoned. Then, is it the mother or the society that gives up the child? Before we debate the abandonment of babies, we need to change the attitude of labeling these sacred lives as “wrongfully conceived.” Once we change our mind-set, the system and the environment would change accordingly.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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