A new familyThe number of children born of single moms topped 10,000 as of 2012 in Korea. According to the JoongAng Ilbo’s feature “The birth of the new family and a report on out-of-wedlock children” in its Feb. 8 edition, more than half of the women who chose to be a single mother were in their 30s, and most of them voluntarily chose the path in sharp contrast with those in their teens and 20s who got pregnant accidentally. The former raise their out-of-wedlock kids without a sense of guilt and aren’t intimidated by social biases or prejudices.
The term “non-marital families” is becoming familiar to us as a new type of family - purely based on a certain purpose or common interests way beyond the boundaries of traditional marriage - becomes more usual in our society. Our civil law’s conventional definition of a family as “a basic unit of society based on marriage, adoption and blood ties” and “a group of people composed of a husband and a wife and their children” cannot meet the changing tides of the times any more. In a demographic aspect as well, a single-person or two-person household accounts for more than half of all households in Korea now.
As one-person households increase, housing specifically aimed at the group has been increasing. The government also has to beef up its administrative support for such households. But we hardly see any policy or legal assistance for single mothers or single fathers. Non-marital families still face restriction on their applications for government-sponsored long-term rental apartments and have to suffer discrimination when they apply for health insurance for their children because they are not eligible for medical coverage. Besides these distinctly harsh realities, they also fall prey to social discrimination, like business owners’ perceived or real pressure to fire single women who are pregnant or have given birth to babies. Single moms are also vulnerable to being treated rudely by civil servants at the times they register the birth of their offspring.
Europe grants non-marital families the same benefits as traditional ones in terms of taxes and social security because their legal status is fully protected by the government. This dramatic change in the evolution of the modern family is a worldwide phenomenon. In Korea, the nearly unrivalled aging of our population is expected to turn 70 percent of all families into one- or two-person households after a mere two decades. The rapid transformation of traditional families urgently calls for efforts to amend related laws and systems as soon as possible.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 10, Page 30