A pastor in Seoul, South Korea has created a “baby box” for people so that people who would otherwise abandon or kill their newborns can leave them somewhere safe instead. The box has a light, a towel lining, and a bell rings as soon as a baby is placed in it so the pastor, his wife, or one of his staff can come and get it right away.
Lee Jong-rak started the box in 2009, and has welcomed all babies, often disabled or the children of single mothers, that have been placed in the box since. The babies are given a loving home, food, and shelter in his orphanage. Currently, an average of 17-18 babies are placed in the box every month.
One mother who had considered poisoning her baby before she heard about the Baby Box left her baby in the box with a letter pinned to his clothing that read:
‘My baby! Mom is so sorry.
I am so sorry to make this decision.
My son! I hope you to meet great parents,
And I am very very sorry.
I don’t deserve to say a word.
sorry, sorry, and I love you my son.
Mom loves you more than anything else.
I leave you here because I don’t know who your father is.
I used to think about something bad but I guess this box is safer for you.
That’s why I decided to leave you here.
My son, Please forgive me.’
- ‘A single mother’s tearful letter’
Lee Jong-rak is the subject of a documentary called “The Drop Box”, which I haven’t seen - but I can recommend this 13 minute Dateline video. You can find the Facebook page for the BabyBox here.
And just like that my heart’s been broken
No. The baby box is ILLEGAL. It’s illegal because it encourages HUMAN TRAFFICKING.
(this is the message on the movie’s facebook page):
sigh… i don’t know where to start. i am a korean-american adoptee activist who has been living in seoul for nearly 7 years, volunteering actively with both other adoptees and unwed mothers’ groups. i suppose i should start by saying why i oppose the baby box. abandoning babies is illegal and the baby box facilitates the abandoning of babies. this is why the UN has suggested time and again that baby boxes be banned internationally. additionally, experts have said that there is absolutely NO PROOF that the presence of babybox reduces infanticide, it merely facilitates the increase of unethical adoption. to people who say that without this babybox, babies in korea would die - that if there wasn’t the ‘humane’ option of abandoning a child in the babybox offered by the church, these women would just leave their baby to die on the street -i say: that opinion is couched in the deep stereotypes against unwed mothers and as someone who has worked for many years with both unwed mothers and parents who have lost their children to adoption, i don’t believe that. i believe that if the church didn’t give them this option (which is painted as a saintly deed by the church and a mother’s ‘final act of love for her child’ in the korean media) that these women would either 1) realize that maybe they have the right to raise their child or 2) choose to go through the proper, ethical procedures for the adoption of her child NOT leave them to die in the street. this line of thought is based on the notion that these women are inhuman, moral-less women who are just trying to get rid of their baby in any way possible. again, as someone who actually works with unwed mothers on a close, regular basis - i don’t accept this line of thought.
many of the people on this thread have NO IDEA the situation of unwed mothers in korea. do you know for example that unwed mothers receive a laughable 70,000 KRW (less than $70) a month in support from the government but adoptive parents receive over twice that from the government. do you know that unwed mothers are routinely discriminated in hiring and/or forced to resign from their jobs when they are found to be pregnant. do you know that although legally fathers are required to pay child support, if the father chooses not to, there is no system to enforce it? the answer is not to give women a way to abandon children but to give them the choice to raise their children if they want. the word “choice” is a tricky one. we have to be critical about the word choice. choice doesn’t mean that no one had a gun to your head. when we consider that unwed mothers are pressured to get abortions (96% end up getting abortions) up until 8 months of their pregnancy. when we consider that most of them are kicked out of their homes and thereby forced to go to unwed mothers’ facilities during their pregnancy. when we consider that roughly half of the unwed mothers facilities in korea are run by adoption agencies. when we consider that the percentage of mothers who DON’T give up their children in adoption agency-run homes is 37% compared to 82% in non-agency homes. when we consider the fact that unwed mothers who give up their children but change their minds are told that they owe money to the adoption agency for each day that their child stayed in their facility. when we consider that one mom told me that after she went back to get her child from the adoption agency, they showed her photos of the adoptive parents in the US and their house and kept telling her how much better the child’s life would be in the states AND that she would break the adoptive parents’ hearts if she took back her child and eventually made her WRITE AN APOLOGY TO THE ADOPTIVE PARENTS before they would give her back her child (psychological warfare, anyone?) when we consider that there’s no real legal way for unwed mothers to claim child support from the father of the baby. when we consider that companies practice discriminatory hiring practices and won’t hire unwed mothers. when we consider that even unwed mothers who run their own businesses suddenly lose all their customers when they find out they’re unwed mothers.
yes, “saving life is the utmost priority” but you have no idea what happens to children once they are adopted. do you know the research on the rate of physical abuse, sexual abuse and assault, addiction, deportation, depression and suicide that adoptees face? no matter how “good” our adoptive parents are or no matter how “successful” our reunions are, adoption is not a ‘natural’ phenomenon - adoption is borne out of trauma. people tend to forget that in the rosy picture that’s painted of adoption in western media. for adoption to have been necessary, a family trauma had to have happened. that is the legacy that adoptees carry and it is even more haunting because we often don’t know the details of that trauma. the babybox exacerbates this problem.
yes, women should have the right to choose adoption for their children. however, it is not a ‘human right’ to abandon a child. and no one, including parents, have the right to take away their child’s right to know their birth information. that is a universal human right, guaranteed by the UN rights of the child.
finally i will share my own story: because my adoption records were fabricated, i had to appear on a audition program in order to try to find my mother. it is angering that adoptees must submit ourselves to these humiliating public displays in order to find our families. if holt practiced ethical adoptions, we would not have to degrade ourselves to becoming some kind of morbid entertainment.
what i learned from meeting my mother is that she was 20 years old when she gave birth to us, twin daughters. she tried to raise us with our father until we were a little over one year old. however, after a period of time, she could no longer take my father’s philandering ways so she left him and took us with her to my maternal grandmother’s house. she raised us at my grandmother’s house until we were just past two. my grandmother, unable to watch my 22 year old single mom struggle to raise twin girls, took us without my mother’s permission to holt. then she returned and refused to tell my mom where she had taken us. instead she told her that she would bear all of the sin for her act and that my mother should try to forget about us and try to live a good life. my mother said it didn’t matter how many times she asked, our grandmother would not tell her where she had taken us.
some years later when my mom married, she asked my grandmother once more where we were, since she was now married and her husband knew about us, she hoped to raise us together. it was then that she learned the truth from my grandmother. according to my mother, my grandmother told her then that it was too late, because we had been adopted abroad but that my mom shouldn’t worry because my grandmother had insisted that we be adopted together.
this is how i know holt fabricated my adoption records. at the time of our adoption and TO THIS DAY, my sister and i remain on my mother’s family registry as jung hana and jung doona. my mother left our names on her registry, even though it essentially “outs” her as a mother who lost her children to adoption, in the hopes that we would be able to find her that way. the reason we could not was because in order to “legally” send us for adoption, holt had to find some way to sever our identities from that family record. at the time, the US did not give adoption visas to children who were not actually orphans, so in order to “legally” be able to send us for adoption, holt had to turn us into orphans. how does one turn a child who is not an orphan into a legal orphan? they lie and say that the child was found ‘abandoned’ in front of some random place and then they promptly make an ‘orphan family registry’ for you, neatly cutting off all of your family ties in one foul swoop.
holt falsified my records in order to legally separate me from my mother, in order to make a profit from my adoptive parents. everyone except holt is a victim in this story. this is why i oppose the babybox. there is no way to verify that the mother herself gave up the child, leaving the possibility of someone else giving up the child without the mother’s consent. holt has a history of human rights abuses and has shown that it is not interested in checking whether or children are actually orphans or not. holt should be held accountable and unwed mothers have a right to raise their children.
if you are TRULY interested in supporting both the mothers and children in these vulnerable situations in korea, please support the Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association (KUMFA) 한국미혼모가족협회, a group of unwed mothers involved in activist work to improve the rights of mothers and children in korea. more info on KUMFA here.
ETA: furthermore, the preview completely misrepresents pastor kim of koroot who is one of the most outspoken opponents of the babybox, but it paints him as a supporter of the babybox. this is unethical filmmaking.
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