About Korea > Adoption, Domestic & Overseas

Unmarried Mothers in Korea

Unmarried Mothers in Korea

The situation of unmarried mothers in Korea mirrors that of the United States and Canada, in the 1950s and 1960s. To have a child and no husband can mean serious negative social (and financial) repercussions for both the mother and child.

While in the past abortions were easily available (albeit illegal), they are becoming somewhat more difficult to obtain.  Korea’s declining birthrate and growth in Christianity (in particular evangelical) have resulted in increased crackdowns on hospitals and clinics.

Until recently, unmarried mothers-to-be could also connect with one of the adoption agencies that handle overseas adoptions. The agency would take care of her during her pregnancy, including covering her living and medical expenses. In return, she would commit to putting her child up for adoption by international parents. However, with the decreasing number of overseas adoptions allowed by the Korean government and the very low rate of domestic adoptions, this is unlikely to be a viable option going forward.

The large majority (probably over 80%) of unmarried women who carry their baby to term, will opt for adoption (or be coerced by family or social workers, etc to do so). With the pressure of a dwindling population, the government adopted a plan to provide women, who decide to keep and raise their child, with a monthly stipend, that was increased with the new Adoption Law in 2011.

In recent years, Korea has also seen a growth in the number of private and government backed agencies providing support for independent mothers, both during their pregnancy and as they raise their child. Many of these, such as Aeranwon, are also Christian-based. However, the stigma of being an unmarried mother or an ‘illegitimate’ child remains very strong in Korea. Her status can have a negative impact on her chances of getting or keeping a good job, making a ‘good’ marriage, etc. The child is likely to suffer at school and also find her/his marital and even career options negatively impacted. However, as the number of independent mothers increases, the stigma may lessen.

At the moment, a very high percentage of the mothers find, after a few years, that the challenge is just too great and they place the child in an orphanage, or have an older relative raise her/him. The majority of the approximately 20,0000 children in welfare institutions in Korea were babies born to single mothers or abandoned children (often also born out of wedlock). It appears that most  of the single mothers, who place their children for adoption, come from middle-class backgrounds where pregnancy before marriage, to say nothing of single motherhood, reduces the woman’s chance of marriage and negatively affects the social status of both the woman and her extended family, and as mentioned earlier, her child/children.

K4E Editor: Korea4Expats.com tries to ensure that the information we provide is accurate and complete, so should you notice any errors or omissions in the content above please contact us at info@korea4expats.com.

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Last Updated on 2020-09-01

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