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tv   Asia Insight  PBS  October 8, 2014 6:30pm-7:01pm PDT

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♪ south korea is experiencing a rise in single mothers who have never been married.
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at septembcenters like this loc seoul, such women are offered support. this center was first established to help all single parents but over the past few years they have seen an increase in unwed single mothers. there are 16 such support centers across south korea. not only does the center cover child birth and child rearing expenses, it also gives educational support for those who missed out on finishing high school. some believe that help for unwed single mothers is still far from sufficient. approximately 10,000 children
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are born to unwed children a year. having a child out of wedlock is frowned upon in a society strongly influenced by confusion. unwed mothers are disowned by their families and have nowhere to go. up until recently many children born to unwed single mothers were sent abroad to live with a adoptive families. around 100,000 children were adopted way from south korea since 1956. in 2010, a group of unwed single mothers founded an organization to share their experiences and seek understanding and support, the first of its kind.
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>> hello. >> the group holds public veeves calling for the right to raise their own children. in this episode of "asia insight" we take a look at the challenges faced by unwed single mothers in south korea and the growing networks of support.
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soeoul, the south korean capital. it's a support center for unwed single mothers in the northwest of the city. it's run by a christian organization. unwed single mothers without an income can stay at the center for free. they receive child birth expenses and other essential support including baby milk and diapers. the center receives some assistance from the government but it also relies on private donations to make up its budget. 16 unwed single mothers and pregnant women currently live at the center. they range in age from 16 to 28.
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22-year-old park hyi ju gave birth one month after arriving at the center. her 2-month-old daughter is in good health and doing very well.
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hyi ju's former boyfriend is oerld than her. at first he agreed to raising the child together but as her pregnancy progressed, he changed his mind and left. her parents scolded her constantly and did show her any understanding for her situation. the center also offers
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psychological counselling as anxiety and motherhood can have a negative influence on the child. nurses at the center are on hand to monitor the health of the mothers and their babies. they also offer advice on how to care for the newborns.
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the women can stay for up to 18 months. they then have to move on as the center prioritizes space for expectant mothers and ones in the early stages of raising their child. there are more than ten such centers in seoul but that's still not enough to cope with the number of women in need. koroot guest house also opened its doors in seoul in 2002. the guest house helps returning overseas adoptees find their bilogical parents after their become adults. many of the 10,000 children born
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to unwed single mothers every year used to be adopted outside the country. over the years more than 3,000 adoptees have come to the guest house to seek help searching for their birth parents. maria recently arrived from sweden. now 40, she was adopted from south korea at the age of three. she's returned to the country of her birth for the first time with her husband and child. she plans to stay at the guest house for one month while looking for her bilogical mother. >> i want to know more about why they adopted me away. maybe it will help me to connect more to the system. >> despite two weeks of searching she hasn't found any
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leads. only 3% of the returning adoptees find their bilogical parents. in many cases there are no records at all. >> it's the unknown. not knowing what i would find. i don't want to have high hopes. >> reverend kim do runs the guest house. in 1992 he was invited to switzerland by a sister church where he preached ten years. after being there a year he was shocked to hear on the news the tragic story of
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the woman was raised by a middle class swiss family in stable environment and received a good education. she later wrote an autobiography titled given up for adoption which talks about the struggles she faced as a child. her death moved kim to become involved in adoptive kids and he
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began listening to kids. kim began to doubt whether the overseas adoption system really brought happiness to the children. after returning to south korea he began working on trying to change the system. in 2006, he submitted a petition to the south korean parliament.
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it called for an end to overseas adoption pointing out that south korea is the only industrialized nation that still exercised this policy. tfrs set up following the korean war. it was designed to offer a home to orphans who lost their parents in fighting and other parents who were too poor to care for them. this picture shows children sent for adoption in the united states. the year they left south korea is written on the placards. more than 5,000 children were sent to america and europe. as south korea developed economically, the nature of the
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overseas adoption program started to change. it became increasingly common for unwed single mothers to send their children to adoptive parents overseas. since the 1990s more than 90 of the program's children were born to such women. kim later called on society to help unwed single mothers to raise their own children and reduce the number of overseas
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adoptions. as a result of his activities the issue was taken up by the media and pressure to review the system mounted. in 2007, kim and his supporters made a breakthrough. the government modified its policy and made overseas an option when no adoptive parents could be found within south kor korea. this only applied to babies under five months old, however. in 2010, the mothers finally began making themselves heard after forming the country's first ever unwed single mothers
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association.hold regular eventsn the capital. >> hello. >> this particular event held in may 2014 was organized by the association with the support of other groups to try and improve public understanding of the situation many unwed single mothers face. the mothers talk about their experiences in front of the general audience.
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events such as this are sometimes also held before university students or obstetrics professionals. shin soon hee is an unwed single mother and member of the association. she has a 5-year-old daughter who she originally considered
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sending for adoption overseas. at the introduction of reverend kim she's meeting with a woman who returned after being adopted overseas. shannon was raised by family in the united states and found her birth mother a year ago. she married a south korean man and now lives in seoul. kim feels that unwed single mothers can lighten their burden by talking to people who have had the experience of being adopted overseas. soon hee still worries whether raising her daughter by herself was the best decision for the child's future.
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the government has taken notice. this support center for single parent families run by the city of seoul opened in 2009. there are currently 15 other such facilities around the country. three times a week qualified teachers offer lessons to help unwed single mothers to prepare for high school graduation. many women who become pregnant in their teens are unable to complete their education. without a high school diploma finding a stable job is
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extremely difficult. students aim to pass the high school proficiency exam after a six month course. the pass rate last year was 100%. lee young ho has been working alongside other groups to increase awareness about the unwed single mother issue. she believes that support for the women is still far from sufficient.
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back at the duri homewo work is under way to help support them after their 18-month stay. clothing and accessory shops have been opened to provide employment for some former residents. on this day, 19-year-old nan song i is preparing to leave her 3-month-old son in the hands of the center's staff. she arrives at a cafe run by the center which opened in april 2014. the cafe's name red mama refers
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to a mother's love in fashion. unwed single mothers learn barista skills here from professionals. at present six mothers from the center are in training. in between looking after her son, song has found a few hours a day to come to the cafe. she doesn't receive any pay yet but once she leaves the center she'll start earning a salary. her dream is to learn the trade at red mama and one day open her own cafe.
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the cafe's most popular products are its original hand baked breads and muffins. a kitchen utensil's manufacturers supplies all the ingredients and baking know how. a kitchen in one of its showrooms is used as a venue for a baking classroom for women from the center. on this day song is trying her hands at baking for the first time. >> chief lee sean is her instructor. he begins with the basics and teaches her how to prepare dough.
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she's made some rice flour muffins stuffed with sweet red bean paste. her first attempt at baking is a success.
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at 6:00 that evening song returns to the center. as soon as she sees her son any tiredness she feels melts away.
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she hopes that by learning to live independently she'll be able to create a future for her son. single mothers who never married have long been victims of prejudice in south korea. their strong desire to raise their own children is gradually changie inine inine ining perce.
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glad to have you with us. it's thursday, october 9th. a japanese journalist has been indicted in south korea on suspicion he defamed the country's president. he wrote an article about park geun-hye's whereabouts on the deadly ferry disaster in april. the questions are raising charges about south korea's press freedom. tatsuyo kato's article in august alleged park was with an unidentified man as the ferry sank in l.


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