The month of May in Korea is “family month” and includes Children’s Day and Parents’ Day (as well as Teachers’ Day and Buddha’s birthday). It’s a celebratory time here, especially as it coincides with the mild temperatures and blossoms of spring. These last two years the month of May has also included a much quieter celebration – Single Mothers Day.
To be a single mother in Korea is no small thing. Women who find themselves pregnant out of wedlock are often pressured by their friends and family to have an abortion or to give up their child for adoption. 90% of children who are adopted from Korea are born to single mothers and, unlike in the West, the majority of unwed pregnant mothers in Korea are over the age of 25. The women who choose to keep their children and raise them as single parents are very few and the discrimination they face is astonishing to someone like me who is not from here.
The shame associated with unwed motherhood is not just the burden of the woman to bear. Her parents, her siblings, and her child are all subjected to it as well. It is often kept a secret for as long as possible since the repercussions of people knowing can be dire, including loss of job, home, and social status. Many of these women can no longer live with their families, as is the custom, the disgrace and shame is so great.
This is so interesting to me, coming from a country whose president was raised by a single mother. Single parenthood is by no means considered ideal in the West, but no person, politician or otherwise, would dream of speaking ill of mothers who are working hard to raise a family on their own without fear of immense (and well-deserved) backlash, the prevailing sentiment being: Don’t they have it hard enough? (more…)