The term “unwed mother” is a direct translation from the Korean word mihonmo. Unwed moms face more social discrimination than other single moms, like widows or women who have been married and then divorced.
What differentiates Korean unwed moms from unwed moms in other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries is their struggle to keep and rear their own children in the face of intense pressure to relinquish due to lack of social welfare support and social discrimination.
Although only 2.1% of Korean children were born outside marriage in 2011, compared with the OECD average of 36.3%, 2515 (25%) of these 9,959 babies were considered “illegitimate children in need of protection.” From 2001-2011, 18,353 of the 18,914 children sent overseas for adoption have been the children of unwed mothers. The OECD average for public spending on family benefits in cash, services, and tax measures, in per cent of GDP in 2007 was 2.20%. Korea was the lowest of the group at 0.66%.
Government support for unwed mothers is given mainly through group home settings. Support in cash, per child, is allocated in way that prioritizes family separation and de-prioritizes the preservation of families who want to live outside institutions.
- Family group home facility: 1,070,000 won
- Child welfare facility (orphanage): 1,050,000 won
- Foster care: 250,000 won
- Domestic adoptive parents: 100,000 won
- Single parents: 50,000 won (US$44)
Moreover, Korea ranks 108th out of 135 countries in overall gender equality and 117th in the world in terms of wage equality for women and men. While there are laws about fathers’ responsibilities to pay child support, they are often not enforced, and many mothers are afraid to even file for child support because they fear losing custody of their children.
Unwed mothers who choose to raise their children face poverty and prejudice due to patriarchal attitudes, lack of support from their families and babies’ fathers, lack of welfare from the government, and discrimination in the workplace against women in general and unwed mothers in particular. Unwed mothers who choose to raise their children do so in the face of systematic oppression and nearly insurmountable obstacles.
 Kim, Bo-eun. “Babies born to unmarried women to top 10,000.” The Korea Times, August 26, 2012. Accessed online November 11, 2012 at http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2012/08/117_118280.html
 OECD statistics portal.Accessed online November 11, 2012 at http://www.seoul.co.kr/news/newsView.php?id=20110511010012
 Kim Sora.“차라리 고아원에” 입양 부추기는 미혼모정책.” The Seoul Newspaper, May 11, 2011. Accessed online November 11, 2012 at http://www.seoul.co.kr/news/newsView.php?id=20110511010012
The Global Gender Gap Report 2012, World Economic Forum, p. 14
 The Global Gender Gap Report 2012, World Economic Forum, p. 45
 Strengthening the Responsibility of Unwed Fatherhood, Conference Summary, Accessed online November 11, 2012 at https://justicespeaking.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/unwed-fathers-conferencesummary05121.pdf
 Korean Family Preservation Network, Joint Submissions to The United Nations Periodic Review, p. 15. Accessed online November 11, 2012 at https://justicespeaking.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/watermark-korean-family-preservation-network_upr_joint_submission_republic-of-korea_october_2012-1.doc