Improving Attitudes Towards Unwed Mothers and Promoting Support

RE: March 3, 2009 Public Forum at the Assembly Member’s Office Building & February Adoption Law Forum follow-up.

Yesterday TRACK attended the Public Forum on Improving Attitudes towards Unwed Mothers and Promoting Support at the National Assembly in Korea/52nd Women’s Policy Forum. The organization that hosted the forum was Korean Women’s Development Institute (KWDI) with lawmaker Kumlae Kim. The sponsor was Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network, which was founded by an adoptive father Dr. Rick Boas, who had a revelation a few years back and now is a great ally to single mothers who want to raise their own children. The moderator was Prof Huh. You met her last week as the professor who is in charge of the adoption law revision recommendations (and who turned TRACK down twice for translation before the meeting).

TRACK representatives heard four presentations which were all supportive of single mothers raising their own children and finding strategies to make that happen. However, it was not clear from what we saw when the government will start to draft and pass bills on these measures to support single mothers.

There were a couple of things that were different about this from the adoption law hearing last Thursday. 1) It was held in the Assembly Member’s Office Building (easier to find); 2) Simultaneous (Korean/English) translation was fully provided; 3) Roll call and acknowledgment was given to 18 National Assembly members.
Our allies from the Unwed Mothers Support Network, including presenter Cheryl Mitchell, needed translation. At this National Assembly building, the organizers found an appropriate place, equipment, and personnel to beautifully handle the translation, even though there were only 3 “American” English as a primary language speakers in a crowd of over 150 ethnic Koreans.

That is in stark contrast to what we experienced as adoptees last Thursday at the “public hearing” on the adoption law an issue – where research was also being presented (like today) about us, but where we comprised one-third of that forum’s audience AND had requested translation in advance, and could not fully understand what was being said because the organizers flat-out twice-refused to provide simultaneous translation.

As you can see, the translation involved a translation both and portable ear devices. It was professional — quick, smooth, and audible.

This is what we want to institutionalize whenever there is a public hearing on laws that involve adoptees centrally. It is our democratic right to be able to participate in laws that are being made about us!!

Do you want the Korean government to make all kinds of decisions about what your rights are as an adoptee regarding your records, etc., without you even knowing what they’re talking about? GOAL tried to address this need by bringing their own volunteer translator, but as we experienced translation needs to be instituted for it to be effective. This means that the speakers should speak accommodate translation by speaking slower. It also means providing multilingual Powerpoint presentations and providing simultaneous translation, so that we can understand all that is said, not just brief summaries of it.

GOAL is trying its best and we are thankful for that, but the point is THIS IS THE GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSIBILITY and WE NEED TO INSTITUTIONALIZE TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETATION for EVERYTHING they do, EVERY TIME THEY DO IT on these laws regarding our rights and our lives. It is a DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLE that we be allowed to participate.

We refuse to be blocked by the language barrier that we did not create. We REFUSE to be passive and just say, “Oh gosh, I guess I should learn Korean better.” Hell no! Did the government refuse to provide translation for three “Americans” at the parliament today? NO! Did the government ask your adoptive parents to learn Korean so they could understand what was being said so they could adopt you? NO! The government and the agencies wrote up entire social histories, visas, documents, etc. in English, French, Italian, Danish, etc. to get you adopted. Now we want Prof. Huh and the government to keep her promise to us to extend the same right to understand that they always provide to “foreigners.” Not only that, but do you want to walk into your agency one day and have them tell you that you can or cannot have certain information about yourself because of laws this committee is recommending RIGHT NOW!?

We don’t have the right to complain later if we can’t even find one minute to send an email now. We have to come together as a community over this very, very basic and simple request. This is fundamental. WE JUST WANT TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT.  Maybe you don’t care to participate, but it is still your democratic RIGHT TO KNOW what laws they are making about YOU. If you want to participate, that is great — and getting translation is the KEY that will open the door to EVERYTHING ELSE. This is STEP ONE. So:

1) Email Professor Huh, write a personal email, about how you were there (if you were) and how you experienced first hand the need for interpretation.  Also write that you plan to be there in the next meeting (if you so intend).  We need to at least get all the people that went to the meeting and felt the frustration of not having interpretation built into the meeting email Professor Huh (that means at least the 30 of us that were there).  There’s a form letter attached below in case you need it.

2) Get your friends and other allies that you know to email her as well.  Whether they are emailing as people that need interpretation, or as people that believe interpretation should be provided to make this a democratic process.

We don’t have many people e-mailing so far, if that remains, then Professor Huh will not feel much pressure to deliver on her promises.


Feel good knowing you have taken




Dear Professor Huh,

I just wanted to acknowledge and support your decision made in the last hearing to provide simultaneous English interpretation at the next public hearing as the first step to the larger goal of making this process fully accessible to all those affected.

Forum agenda

Hyeyoung Kim/SangSu Ahn (Research Fellow, KWDI)(presented results from a behavioral survey on attitudes towards single parents and women that found in lieu of anticipated stigmatisation, the findings indicate popular sentiment potential in favor of offering support for single mothers)

Mijeong Lee (Research Fellow, KWDI)(provided a review of literature comprised primarily of US Korean KAD identity-based scholarship produced between 2000-2007questioning adoption as a solution)

Yunkyu Ryu (Professor, SeoulTheological University)(provided comparative view of welfare policies for unwed mothers and their children, drawing on Sweden, France, Australia and Japan–offering a summary of recommendations for applications in south Korea)

Cheryl Mitchell (Professor, University of Vermont)(provided a narrative of her life’s work in the US and a review of the cultural climate of supporting unwed mothers and their children in the US, indicates supporting United Nations Conventions on the Rights of Children)
Discussion: Boongjoo Lee, Seoul University Professor; Eunyoung Kim, Hanshin University Professor; Sunegah Hong, Research Fellow KWDI and Sookja Park, Deputy Director General for family policy, Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs)

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