Social concerns for Kopinos

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Social concerns for Kopinos

A South Korean court ruled in favor of two boys of an unwed Filipino woman in a paternity suit against their Korean biological father that could set a legal precedent for children abandoned by Korean men.

Kopino refers to Korean-Filipino children abandoned by their Korean fathers. A Seoul family court acknowledged that the two boys that live in the Philippines were biological children of a married Korean man. The Korean businessman had previously lived with their mother.

He severed contact with them after he returned to Korea. The ruling - if upheld by a higher court - would require the father to pay for their upbringing. Mixed Korean and Filipino descendants are estimated to number more than 10,000. Many Korean men fathered children while they studied, vacationed, or did business in the Philippines and then returned home without taking any responsibilities.

The most recent lawsuit was possible because the Filipino mother was able to track the man down and sought a court order for him to take biological tests. The plight of Kopino children has been featured in various forms of media. They are often brought up in slums without decent schooling and shunned by their mother’s family. The ruling should bring chagrin to Korean men whose shameful behavior has brought disgrace to their nation.

The Wall Street Journal recently featured a story about children left behind by Korean men. It cited a Korean man who ran a shelter for Kopinos accusing Koreans of turning into perpetrators after becoming a developed economy despite having fallen victim to sexual exploitation by Japan and the United States. The rise of Kopino births correlated with the growth of the Korean community in the Philippines. Koreans made up the largest share of foreign nationals who have visited the Philippines last year. Many of the men are accused of having visited as sex tourists.

Korea’s reputation will be permanently tainted without decisive action and increased social awareness. Japan eased visa and naturalization procedures after controversy surfaced surrounding the descendants of Japanese fathers. Japanese companies give advantages to Japanese-Filipino descendants for local positions. The Korean government and companies also should look into taking similar actions of support.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 23, Page 30

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