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Korean Money Woes Break Up Families (fwd)
Saturday January 9 11:33 AM ET
Korean Money Woes Break Up Families
By SANG-HUN CHOE Associated Press Writer
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - At the Angels' Haven, a home for abandoned
children, 5-year-old Ju-hyun made a circle with his arms and boasted
to his friends: ``My Mom, too, will come to see me with a BIG, BIG
She never came.
Ju-hyun's tearful mother left the boy and his 7-year old brother in
the orphanage in March. Separated from her jobless, abusive husband,
she had been struggling to support her two kids by washing dishes in a
``She came to us when she lost that job because of the bad economy.
She said she would come and take her children back when things get
better,'' said Kim Mi-jong, a caretaker at Angels' Haven. ``Usually,
that's the last word we hear from the parents these days.''
How Ju-hyun ended up in the orphanage is a tale of how South Korea's
economic crisis is breaking up many families, producing an increasing
number of abandoned children.
In the first half of this year, 2,348 children were sent to the
nation's 272 welfare facilities, up from 826 in the same period of
But abandoned or orphaned children looking for homes face two hurdles
in South Korea - a Confucian society that values strong family ties
and sees them as ``different blood,'' and a government that actively
discourages adoptions by foreigners.
That leaves the nation overflowing with children waiting for adoption,
often in crowded facilities.
``The government's quota does not reflect reality,'' said Kim
Young-bok at the Eastern Child Welfare Society, one of four agencies
licensed to handle foreign adoptions. The quota has forced the agency
to reject new applicants.
The government introduced the quota system two years ago after news
media and politicians began calling overseas adoptions a disgrace to
then affluent South Korea.
>From a high of 8,000 a year during the 1980s, only 2,057 Korean
children were adopted abroad last year.
``We are in a dilemma,'' said Lee Chang-june of the Health and Welfare
Ministry. ``We must get rid of our image as a major exporter of
orphans. But people are not adopting children at home.''
Despite a government campaign to make adoptions more socially
acceptable, the number of children adopted by South Korean families
has remained at around 1,200 annually for several years.