Unwed Mothers Resist Stigmas

It’s undoubtedly difficult to raise a child on your own, but Korea is making it near impossible for an unwed mother to even try. Luckily, there are people trying to change that.

Last week, the New York Times did a wonderfully moving story about a small number of unwed Korean mothers who have banded together to fight against the stigmas and ingrained social mores that they face in their country.

“The fledgling group of women — only 40 are involved so far — is striking at one of the great ironies of South Korea. The government and commentators fret over the country’s birthrate, one of the world’s lowest, and deplore South Korea’s international reputation as a baby exporter for foreign adoptions.

Yet each year, social pressure drives thousands of unmarried women to choose between abortion, which is illegal but rampant, and adoption, which is considered socially shameful but is encouraged by the government. The few women who decide to raise a child alone risk a life of poverty and disgrace.”

The statistic that might be most shocking and illuminating was that in 2007, 7,774 babies were born out of wedlock, which accounted for only 1.6 percent of all births that year. However, according to the Ministry for Health, Welfare, and Family Affairs, nearly 96 percent of unwed pregnant women opted for abortion. While the 1.6 percent isn’t a staggering number, the 96 percent abortion rate is. And of the 4 percent that do give birth, 70 percent of them give up their child for adoption.

Another aspect to this issue that should be explored, but wasn’t by the New York Times, are the dangers and risks in going through with an abortion, despite it being illegal in Korea.

What are you thoughts on this? Have you or your mothers experienced the same kind of treatment in the Korean American community?