Single Moms’ Day shifts focus to family preservation

The Hankyoreh

Single Moms’ Day shifts focus to family preservation

TRACK and KoRoot to host international conference May 11 placing the spotlight on single moms

» Noh Keum-ju (Noh Myung-ja) discusses the circumstances of separation from her son pictured on the poster for the film “Resilience” at Koroot in Seoul, May 5. (Photo by Lee Jeong-a)
By Lee You-jin 

May 11 is “Adoption Day.” The government created the day in 2006 to activate for domestic adoption. Every year around this time, however, there are people whose hearts are cut to pieces. They are the mothers whose children were sent overseas. The Dandelion parents’ group is a group of mothers who were compelled to send their children overseas for adoption in the 1970s and 1980s. The mothers formed the group three years ago to commiserate, help one another and share information on their children visiting Korea. Most of the 12 members have been reunited with their children.

“It is another start. Because we cannot communicate due to language, I cannot explain, and even if it is a bit insufficient, I want to say it’s all my fault… Overseas adoption, to those involved, is a pain that must be endured for a lifetime.”

Noh Keum-ju (Noh Myung-ja), 52, the chairwoman of the group, said, “Before 2005, when I was reunited with my son, I did not even know the phrase ‘overseas adoption,’ and I assumed he was living in Korea.”

Noh continued, “Without my knowledge, my husband’s family sent my child to an ob/gyn and signed a statement relinquishing parental rights. Later, I found out the hospital sent my son to an institution, and the country [Korea] sold my child off. My world collapsed when I heard the news.”

“When I was 18 and working in a factory, I gave birth to Seong-wook (35, living in South Dakota, United States) due to an unwanted pregnancy. My starvation was so serious that I was unable to lactate. My husband gambled and was never around, and the next year, while I was away for a month, I lost my child,” said Noh. “I went out of my mind, so I went to find him.” 30 years later, she found him again.

Through the adoptee-founded organization Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link (G.O.A.’L.) assisting returning adoptees, Seong-wook found her first.

At a glance, she could tell, “He looks just like me. He is my child.”

His face, however, revealed the gloom of his own family troubles. Listening to his story with difficulty, she learned he grew up without the appropriate help from his adopted parents. He started his own family at a young age, and they were poor, and his daughter even developed a heart condition. Noh said she felt most sorry that she could not help him though she wanted to because of her situation, despite being his birth mother.

Their story was the subject of adoptee filmmaker Tammy Chu’s documentary film “Resilience.” The film was shot over a three-year period and premiered at the Busan International Film Festival. Noh also made Chu, who met her birth mother before she passed away at an early age, an adopted daughter.

May 11 is the first “Single Mom’s Day,” created by adoption and single mother groups. Noh plans to tell her story at an international conference that day at the Community Chest Auditorium hosted by Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea (TRACK) and KoRoot, a guest house for overseas adoptees returning to South Korea.

“Society will only change if mothers like me show themselves more. I am a mother whose child was sent for overseas adoption, and a single mother. If a base is created so that single mothers can also raise their children, the nation’s concerns about adoption will also disappear,” said Noh. “We must lessen the pain that must be suffered to the day they die by those affected by overseas adoption.”

Kwon Hee-jong, a coordinator at the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network (KUMSN), said, “70 percent of the mothers at state-supported facilities relinquish their children for adoption, while in the United States, the ratio of mothers who give up their children is just 1 percent.”

Kwon added, “It is absolutely necessary that we eliminate prejudices so that birthmothers can raise their children on their own and expand support before encouraging adoption.”

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