Yesterday, the New York Times published a story profiling the trials of the South Korean single mother. It is truly heartbreaking to read what these women sacrificed in order to raise their own children. Even when faced with a declining birthrate, it is more acceptable to have an illegal abortion or to give up a baby for adoption than to live as a single mom. It is especially infuriating, considering how much pressure is put on Korean mothers in general to be the sole caregivers, that these women are roundly shunned when they should be applauded for taking full responsibility for their lives and the lives of their children.
Sadly, my family has some personal experience with this cultural stigma. My cousin's husband was tragically killed in a car accident when their daughter was only 8 months old. She tried to raise her daughter alone, but eventually word got out to her daycare provider that there wasn't a father at home (her employer already knew because she was employed both before and after the accident). They confronted her quite rudely, and when she explained with great pain what had happened, they had the gall to call her a liar (as in "Of COURSE you're going to say that your husband is dead, that's what they all say"). Because of this and similar experiences, she eventually moved to the United States. If widows get this sort of treatment in the motherland, I am not surprised that straight-up single moms get it much worse.
That said, I applaud the 40 women who have joined the unwed mothers association thus far, and hope that as South Korea further establishes itself as a modern nation, these last few shameful vestiges of pigheaded bigotry can be laid to rest.