To be unwed and pregnant in Korea is still socially unacceptable. Families and friends not only encourage, but push to the point of force, unwed mothers to relinquish their babies. In Korea motherhood is very sacred. So when a Korean birth mother places her baby for adoption, she is giving away a deep and revered part of herself. In letting go of her child, she is also stating to herself that she is unworthy, that she does not deserve motherhood.
Claire Lee, writing for the Korea Herald, visited with Korean birth mothers to share their stories. One gave birth when she was 17 years old, then was forced to marry the man who raped her. Even with that trauma in her life, when her child was 11 months old, he was secretly taken from her and placed for international adoption.
Lee’s investigation has shown that even birth mothers who have reunited with their children continue to suffer from guilt, depression, anxiety, and deep sadness. Many get physically ill every year during the month of their child’s birth. Those helping Korean birth mothers are working toward raising awareness. They hope these good women will learn to reach out to support groups and unashamedly seek counseling.
Lee’s full story may be read at the Korean Herald.