Chinese Eunuchs Confuse Me

What role do Neo-Confucian notions of the “life force” (ki) play in buttressing modern Korean patriarchy?

Warm Nest(Warm Nest by Eugenia LoliCC BY-NC 2.0)

Many years ago,Taeyeon Kim’s “Neo-Confucian Body Techniques: Women’s Bodies in Korea’s Consumer Society” was my Communist Manifesto of Korean gender relations. It was short, to the point, and instantly melded everything I knew about the subject into a simple, coherent narrative. It didn’t galvanize me into taking up arms against the bourgeoisie exactly, but it did encourage me to study more, ultimately leading to this blog. Take these quick excerpts to see why:

First, from page 99 (references removed; italics in original):

“To understand the Neo-Confucian body, it is essential to understand the concept of ki. A material force which links the body and mind into one system, ki flows through all things, giving them form and vitality….There is no distinction between the self and the universe. Neo-Confucian men were encouraged to let go of ego and become selfless, that is to have no consciousness of an individual and separate self apart from others….Ki was passed from parent to child throughout the generations, acting as a material link between ancestors and descendants….The family composed a unified body through ki, and the identity of the family and self and family was continuous and undifferentiated.”

Then, from page 100 (ditto):

Neo-Confucian scholars considered women to have inferior ki to that of men. This notion continues to be held today. One study of a village in Korea found that women were believed to be inferior to men because they did not carry the life-giving force (ki) that men did. Women were believed to be passive receptacles of the life which men implanted in them; they played no active part in creating life. Such incubation was perhaps the most important role of a woman’s body in Korea. Her body was a vessel through which the male line and ki could be perpetuated. As such, the most important physical traits for a woman were features that revealed her potential to bear children—particularly boys. “During the Yi [Choson] Dynasty, the attribute valued above all others in a prospective bride was her potential capacity to bear sons. Compared to this, her beauty and wealth were secondary.”

Upon reading that, suddenly I saw a Matrix-like ki (기) pervading everything, providing the ideological bedrock to the many, blatantly patriarchal aspects of Korean society. For instance: Koreans’ preference for sons and consequent sex ratio problem (resolved, but with a legacy of an excess of increasingly misogynistic 20-something men); the hoju system (호주제), only abolished in 2008, under which only fathers or husbands could be heads and/or legal representatives of a family; the traditional (and still prevailing) custom of only having men perform jesa (제사), or ancestor worship rights, and usually only at the eldest son’s home; and Korea’s extremely low adoption rates, with 70% of those that are adopted domestically are girls. Indeed, as The Economist explains of that last:

Traditional Confucian notions of the bloodline family still hold sway, as do aspects of primogeniture. Women who cannot bear children face strong social stigma, as do orphans and adoptees, whose chances of getting a job and marrying are limited. Many adoptions in South Korea are concealed from family and friends—and, in many cases, the adopted child. Parents ensure that the baby’s blood type matches their own; some mothers even fake pregnancy. All this sends the message that adoption is shameful, in turn discouraging more of it. The secrecy also explains why 95% of infants adopted within South Korea are less than one-month old: young enough to be passed off as biological children. A majority of adopted babies are girls so as to avoid difficulties over inheritance and at ancestral family rites, which are normally carried out by bloodline sons.

Korean Domestic Adoptions 70% girls(Source: Netizenbuzz)

Of course, ultimately I did realize that ki didn’t explain all that much actually. That, alas, Korean gender relations remained a messy subject, and that I still have a lifetime of learning about it ahead of me. But I hadn’t come across anything to challenge Taeyeon Kim’s characterization of the concept either, so I retained my lingering affection for it.

Then I listened to an episode about eunuchs on the BBC Radio 4 podcast In Our Time, hosted by Melvyn Bragg. That week, it featured Michael Hoeckelmann talking about eunuchs in China, Karen Radner about them in the Assyrian Empire, and Shaun Tougher in the Roman one. Jumping ahead to the sections which made do a double-take (several, in fact, as I’m sure they will to you too):


Michael Hoeckelmann) Most eunuchs came from the lower strata of society. So, if not the eunuch himself had decided to undergo castration—there are some cases in Chinese history where some eunuchs are known to have castrated themselves—then the decision rested with the family. So families that could not afford the Confucian education that was necessary and required for [a career in officialdom], they would decide to have one of their sons castrated, and to send him into the palace, in the hope that once he rose to a considerable position of power he would help his own family, his own kin.


Karen Radner) [The eunuchs, unlike] all the other people in Assyria, did not identify themselves with reference to their father’s name. Everyone else was such and such son of such and such, they were not. That’s very important. Also, as we’ve already discussed, a key attraction [for the royal family] is that they cannot father children; that’s hugely important in a society where the existence of the family across generations is one of the key incentives of human life…you achieved eternal life by having children who would invoke your name in regular rituals. Obviously that couldn’t happen with a eunuch…the royal family instead took on that responsibility. One can describe the eunuchs almost as adopted children of the royal family.

Melvyn Bragg)But then what happened in China, as you began to say Michael, the eunuchs began to adopt children in order that these children would do exactly as Karen was saying—have prayers or whatever…ceremonies after their death to keep them alive as their ancestors.

Michael Hoeckelmann) Yes, indeed. And just as Karen was saying, like in ancient Assyria, kinship and family was all important in China…and when eunuchs were castrated they even kept what was formerly attached to their bodies in order to be buried with them (the so-called “Three Treasures”) kept in a jar because they had to show them to regulators at the imperial court. Anyway, so the eunuchs start to adopt children at a very early stage in order to bequeath their property and in order to continue the family line. Because what they had done, or what had been done to them—the castration—was actually a breach of filial piety; they were not able to continue the family line…at least not biologically.

I know what you’re thinking: Ancient China is not Korea. Also, if Taeyeon Kim’s definition of ki has substance to it (and, my youthful naivety aside, there’s still no reason to suppose otherwise), then it’s difficult to believe that it hasn’t very much provided an ideological buttress to various aspects of Korean patriarchy today. And probably in China also, where, among other things, boys command a price twice that of girls in the lucrative trade in kidnapped children.

But, if it turns out that in Korea too, jesa was and/or is more important than continuing ki—indeed, really quite separate and distinct from it—then I’m still left feeling a little chastised that I came to accept something so readily without examining it properly, simply because it provided a handy, scholarly confirmation of my pre-existing views.

But what you’ve also probably thinking is that Taeyeon Kim is just one source. And, although I’ve read more about Neo-Confucianism since then, most recently The Sage and the Second Sex: Confucianism, Ethics, and Gender edited by Li Chenyang (2000), I have to admit I’ve read nothing about ki specifically. So, on that note, let me end this post with not a revelation sorry, but a), if nothing else, a link to a very interesting podcast for you to take away from it; and b), my again posing the question provided in the introduction: what role, if any, do Neo-Confucian notions of ki play in modern Korean patriarchy?

Thanks in advance to any more learned readers than I who can provide any clarification, and/or suggest links or books for further reading. Also, please feel free to raise just about anything (Neo)-Confucianism-related in the comments, including any interesting stories about what your Korean family and/or friends do during Chuseok or Seolnal, and their attitudes towards the notion of women performing jesa. Thanks!

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Announcements: Two Very Worthy Causes to Support!


Today, some information about two very worthy causes.

First, on ongoing volunteer opportunities for the Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association in Daegu and the 3rd Single Moms’ Day Conference this May. Then, on a Kickstarter campaign for a full length documentary film seeking to help preserve and spread knowledge of the shamanistic practices and shrine religion of Jeju Island:

I. The Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association (KUMFA) is an organization that works to promote children’s human rights while addressing systemic discrimination. KUMFA advocates for the human rights of unwed pregnant women, unwed mothers and their children in Korea. KUMFA’s goal is to enable Korean women to have sufficient resources and support to keep their babies if they choose, and thrive in Korean society.

More information is available in the following interview and at the Single Moms’ Day event page:

Daegu KUMFA Volunteer Opportunities (ongoing):

The Daegu Branch of the Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association will hold meetings and provide classes for their members. KUMFA Daegu seeks volunteers to provide childcare during the classes. In the future other types of volunteer opportunities may arise. For additional details please visit the KUMFA Facebook Page or contact us directly at kumfa.volunteer@gmail dot com.

Seoul KUMFA Volunteer Opportunities (ongoing):

The Seoul Branch of Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association has ongoing volunteer and learning opportunities. Sign up by joining the Facebook group.

II. Seoul Conference (May 10-11, 2013): The 3rd Single Moms’ Day Conference:

SMD advocates for human rights in a number of important ways, in particularly by addressing systemic discrimination by “informing people inside and outside Korea about the factors that pressure unwed mothers to relinquish their children for adoption. Push factors include fathers’ child support obligations being unenforced; lack of adequate social welfare from the Korean government; social discrimination against unwed mothers and their children. Pull factors include the fact that more than half of unwed mothers in facilities are living in unwed mothers’ shelters that are owned and operated by adoption agencies; a money-driven international adoption system that does not conform to the UN CRC or the Hague Convention, i.e., it does not respect children’s humans rights.”

For more information or to make a donation, please visit the SMD event page. Here is some volunteer testimony:

“I have been involved with SMD and related projects for two years. I’ve learned a lot from this really inspiring collaboration of groups that fight for Korean children’s human rights, including: parents whose children were adopted by unethical means; unwed parents who are fighting workplace and social discrimination to raise their children; adult adoptees who campaign for ethical reforms to adoption laws; supporters and volunteers who work to bring policies into the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

Next, on Jeju Documentarian Giuseppe Rositano’s Kickstarter campaign. Please do check the link for additional information, and on why your help is needed:

Jeju 1As a popular tourist destination in South Korea, Jeju Island has risen to fame predominantly for its natural wonders: hiking trails in abundance, scenic ocean views and South Korea’s highest mountain. It is possible to experience these in just a few short days, but staying on the island a bit longer or even making it a home provides the opportunities to get a deeper understanding and appreciation of some of the more interesting aspects of Jeju. Documentarian Giuseppe Rositano, Jeju Island resident of 7 years, explores some of these more interesting aspects of Jeju life, specifically the shamanistic beliefs and shrine religion of Jeju Island that is in danger due to the rapidly declining population of believers.

Jeju 2Spanning the course of 18 months and accumulating more than 500 hours of shamanistic ceremonies and traditional storytelling on film, Rositano captures the spiritual life of 5 villages through exploration of their native deities and traditional oral stories that have been passed down through generations. These stories, which describe the lives of Jeju’s extensive pantheon, are quickly disappearing. At Search is an attempt to preserve these unique indigenous beliefs.

Each village on Jeju Island has several shrines in which local deities specific to the island are ‘seated’. Each of these deities corresponds to a ‘bonpuli’ or oral myth. With an adventurous spirit, this documentary sets out to capture the retelling of these ‘bonpuli’ legends in the voice of what is likely the final generation of elders who received the stories from their parents and grandparents. Sadly, younger generations are seldom aware of these stories which serve as the cornerstones for their grandparents’ spiritual lives and cultural identity. With over 400 shrines on the island and a total of 18,000 gods on Jeju, that’s quite a loss to humanity’s cultural history!

Jeju 3Currently At Search for Spirits on the Island of Rocks, Wind and Women is in post-production. Rositano and team have launched a kickstarter campaign to raise funds to bring the project to completion and to get it out to film festivals around the world.

“Single Mothers are Ignorant Whores”: Update


As you’ll recall from last month’s article, about the Ministry of Health and Welfare (보건복지부; MOHW) once defining single mothers as having “low levels of education [and] impulsive sexual drives”, I promised to find out how recently that had been posted on the Ministry’s website, speculating that it was sometime within, say, the last decade or so.

You can imagine my surprise then, when Seunghee Han of the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network (한국미혼모지원네트워크; KUMSN) informed me that wasn’t removed until as recently as May 2010. This was in response to Executive Director Heejung Kwon posting the definition on the Missmammamia (미스맘마미아) website, which prompted many mothers to write directly to the Ministry to complain.

Unfortunately however, the definition that has replaced it is also a little problematic, implying that most Korean single mothers are in their teens. Whereas that is certainly true of most Western countries though, and – if the 2008 Drama Little Mom Scandal (리틀맘 스캔들) above is any guide – may also be the Korean public’s perception, the reality is that most are in their late-twenties or early-thirties, as the following post on the KUMSN website makes clear:

(For a good introductory article to the plight of single mothers in Korea, see the New York Times here)

건강길라잡이사이트문제있습니다 / A Problem with the Health Guide Website

건강길라잡이는 보건복지가족부와 건강증진사업지원단에서 운영 중인 국민 모두의 건강증진을 위한 건강증진사업 홈페이지입니다. 그런데 여기에 쓰인 미혼모의 정의는 이상합니다.

The “Health Guide” is a website jointly run by the MOHW and the Management Center for Health Promotion for the public health of all citizens. However, the definition of single mothers on it is strange.

합법적이고 정당한 결혼절차 없이 임신중이거나 출산한 여자를 미혼모라고 정의내리고 있는데 마치 미혼 임신, 출산을 하면 모두 불법을 저지르고 있는 범죄인으로 여기고 있는 것 같습니다.

According to the definition, single mothers are women who are pregnant or who have given birth who have not gone through the legal and proper marriage procedures. Put this way, it sounds like all unmarried pregnant women or mothers have committed some sort of crime!

그리고 기본적으로 미혼모를 대부분 10대라 여기고 있습니다. 그러나 2010년 조사한 바로는 한 지역사회에 있는 미혼모의 경우, 평균 나이는 20대 후반 30대초반이라는 결과도 있었습니다.

Also, it basically says that most single mothers are in their teens, whereas according to the results of a survey of single mothers in one local area [James – unnamed] in 2010, most were in their late-twenties or early-thirties.

국민들의 건강을 증진하기 위해 유익한 정보를 제공하는 사이트에서도 이런 잘못된 정보를 제공하기 때문에 미혼모들에 대한 사회적인 인식이 더디게 바뀌고 있습니다. 잘못된 정보는 정정되어야 합니다.

Because there is wrong information even in a guide aimed at promoting citizens’ health, the public perception of single mothers is slow to change. This wrong information needs to be corrected.


And here is the section of the guide/website referred to:

10임신과미혼모 / Teen Pregnancy and Single Mothers

미혼모 : 합법적이고 정당한 결혼절차 없이 임신중이거나 출산한 여자.

Single Mother: A pregnant woman or mother who has not gone through the correct and proper marriage procedures.

산업화 도시화 과정, 성에 대한 가치관이나 태도의 변화, 이성교재의 범위가 늘어남에 따라 미혼모의 수가 계속적으로 증가. 미혼모 중 약 25%는 10대.

Because of industrialization and urbanization, people’s sense of values about and attitudes towards sex are changing, and more people [James – I think it means unmarried people] are having sexual relationships. Accordingly, the number of single mothers is rising, and roughly 25% of those are in their teens.

(James – Before you quite rightly point out that 25% isn’t “most” single mothers, the guide contradicts itself just two lines further down)

미혼모에 대한 정확한 통계는 없으나 전국 출산력 조사결과 18~34세 미만의 미혼여성들 중 3.4%가 임신의 경험이 있는 것으로 추정.

While it is difficult to get accurate statistics about single mothers, based on the results of a national birthrate survey [James – unnamed] it is estimated that 3.4% of single women aged between 18 and under 34 have had the experience of being pregnant (source, right).

미혼모는 대부분 10대 임신으로 교육적 경제적 정도가 낮아 충분한 건강관리를 받을 수 없으며 부모로서의 발달과업을 달성할 수 없다.

As most single mothers are teenagers, with inadequate access to healthcare and low levels of education and earning ability, then they can not really succeed as parents.

신체적인 미숙과 영양부족으로 유산, 조산, 저체중아 출산 등 고위험 임산부와 고위험 태아 및 신생아가 된다.

Teenagers that are not fully physically developed, and/or are malnourished, are at high risk of having miscarriages, premature births, underweight children, and/or complications during their pregnancy.

미혼인 여성이 임신을 하면 임신한 결과를 인공유산과 분만 중 어느 쪽을 선택할 것인지를 결정해야 하고 분만을 할 경우는 자신이 키울 것인지 입양을 시킬 것인지를 결정해야 한다.

If a single woman becomes pregnant, her two options are having an abortion or delivering the baby. If she chooses the latter, then she has to decide if she will raise it herself or offer it for adoption.

우리나라의 경우 84.8%가 인공유산, 분만은 15.2%(김승권, 1992)

In Korea, 84.8% of women in such a situation choose to have an abortion, and 15.2% choose to deliver it. (Kim Sung-gwon, 1992)


Apologies for not being able to find the title of the book referred to for the last figure, but I’m afraid I’ll have to recover from the shock of seeing a 19 year-old source used before I start looking. Moreover, combine that with the sloppily-written, contradictory, and incorrect information provided earlier, then frankly – and ironically – it’s only as I type this that I realize how bad things must be for single mothers here.

Sure, call me melodramatic, and/or reading too much into what is most likely simply a hastily-written piece of work, but recall that it comes from an organization presumably charged with supporting single mothers, promoting their rights, and trying to overcome stereotypes. Yet if that’s the best that it can do, then I shudder to think of how other organizations and segments of society treat them, with the sterling exception of the KUMSN.

But to end on a lighter note: has anybody seen Little Mom Scandal, and/or know how sympathetic it was to single mothers? Please let me know!

(Thanks to Seunghee Han of the KUMSN for the information. And also to Marilyn for putting me in touch with her, and again for translating October’s much longer article!)

Ministry of Health and Welfare: “Unwed Mothers are Ignorant Whores”


What? It said that? In 2011??

No, hopefully not so recently, especially with the increasing criminalization of abortion since last year. But as you’ll soon see, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (보건복지부) certainly did once define unwed mothers as such, and I’d wager within at least the last decade.

It was just in 2008, for instance, that singer Ivy (아이비) was vilified in the media for the heinous crime of having sex with her boyfriend, so by those standards the Ministry’s comments were not particularly outlandish. And while Ivy did eventually rehabilitate her reputation, unfortunately Korean society is still far from accepting women being so sexually “open and impulsive”, let alone so blatantly so as to have a child out of wedlock.

Whatever the date though, when even the organization charged with helping unwed mothers once stigmatized them, then you can imagine how badly they fare in society today.

Despite that, abortion opponents seem to have quite a sanguine image of what it’s like to raise a child as a single mother. Which is what prompted this anonymous Korean woman, who kindly recently wrote on TGN about how and why she got an abortion, to post a link to this imomNews article outlining how the reality is anything but. With thanks to Marilyn for translating it, here it is in full:

(Update – To my shock and disappointment, the Ministry’s appalling definition was actually on its website until as recently as May 2010)

‘동성애자’ 다음으로 차별 받는 집단 ‘미혼모 / Unwed Mothers Most Discriminated Group after Homosexuals

인식 개선 선행…정부지원 확대 /[With] improvement in perception as precedent. . . expansion of government aid

Image Caption: 최근 정치권을 중심으로 ‘미혼모’ 지원방안이 활발히 이루어지고 있다. 지난 3일 서울 여의도 국회에서는 ‘미혼모 지원정책 개선방안’ 포럼이 개최됐다 /Currently, political methods for supporting unwed mothers are actively becoming reality.  On Aug. 3, at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, an “Unwed Mothers Support Measures Improvement” forum was held.

‘학력이 대체로 낮고, 불안정한 직업에 종사한다. 자취나 하숙을 하고, 성에 대한 가치관이 개방적이고 충동적이다. 사회경제적 상태가 낮고 부모와 떨어져 사는 사람’이라고 과거 보건복지부가 운영하는 웹사이트 건강길라잡이는 미혼모에 대한 정의를 이렇게 내렸다.

“Usually low levels of education, with an unstable job. Lives by herself or in a boarding house, has open and impulsive sexual values.  A person whose socioeconomic situation is low, and who lives apart from her parents,” is how a website health guide operated by the past Ministry of Health and Welfare defined unwed mothers.

이처럼 사회의 부정적인 시선 탓에 미혼모에 대한 관심과 지원은 일부 사회복지시설을 제외하곤 전무후무한 것이 사실이었다.

Because of society’s negative views like these, it was true that, as for interest in and support for unwed mothers, a few social welfare facilities were the first and seemed like they would be the last.

특히, 1990년대 이후 정부와 시민단체 등의 노력으로 조손가정, 다문화 가정, 한부모 가정 등은 상당부분 인식개선이 이루어 졌으나 미혼모 가족만은 사회의 편견 속에 여전히 ‘눈총’의 대상이 되고 있다.

In particular, through the efforts of the government and civic organizations since the 1990s, perception of grandparent-grandchild families, multicultural families, and single-parent families has improved; among society’s prejudices, only unwed-mother families continue to be the target of stares.

때문에 형편이 좋지 않아 자립이 힘든 미혼모들은 자연히 입양을 생각하거나 권유받게 되고, 우리사회도 ‘낳아 기르는 쪽’ 보다는 입양을 암묵적으로 유도했다.

(I Came From Busan, 2009. Source)

Because of that, unwed mothers, whose circumstances are not good and so have difficulty supporting themselves, think of adoption of their own accord or are induced to adopt, and our society also implicitly supports the “have and raise side” less than it does adoption.

사정이 이렇다 보니 지난해 우리나라의 해외입양아는 미혼모의 자녀가 90%를 차지한 것으로 나타났다. 그러나 최근 이들에 대한 지원방안이 정치권과 시민단체, 기업 등을 중심으로 활발하게 논의되면서 미혼모 가족에 대한 관심이 일고 있다.

Because of this situation, last year it emerged that 90% of internationally adopted children from our country were the children of unwed mothers.  However, as ways to support them are currently being actively discussed in political circles, civic organizations, and businesses, interest in unwed-mother families is rising.

Image Caption: 던킨도너츠는 미혼모 정소향(21세) 씨를 정규사원으로 채용하면서 미혼모 채용에 적극 나서기로 했다 /By hiring unwed mother Jeong So-Hyang (21) as a permanent employee, Dunkin Donuts is actively taking a stand for the hiring of unwed mothers.

미혼모 인식 개선이 우선 / Improvement of perception of unwed mothers the priority

미혼모에게 가장 필요한 부분은 부정적인 사회의 시선이 관심과 보호의 시선으로 바뀌어야 하는 것이라고 전문가들은 지적했다.

Experts indicate that the most important thing unwed mothers must do is change negative societal views into feelings of interest and protection.

실제 지난 2009년 한국미혼모지원네트워크와 한국여성정책연구원이 실시한 ‘미혼모ㆍ부에 대한 한국인의 태도와 인식’ 설문조사에 따르면 미혼모는 동성애자 다음으로 가장 많은 차별을 경험한 집단으로 조사됐다.

In fact, according to the survey “Koreans’ attitudes toward and perception of unwed mothers and fathers,” carried out in 2009 by the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network and the Korean Women’s Development Institute, unwed mothers were found to be the group that experienced the most prejudice, after homosexuals.

또한 설문에 참가한 2,000명 중 60% 이상이 미혼모에 대해 ‘판단력과 책임감이 부족한 사람’이라고 답변했다.

Also, of the 2,000 people who participated in the survey, over 60% answered that unwed mothers “are people who lack judgment and a sense of responsibility.”

김혜영 한국여성정책연구원 연구위원은 “미혼모의 경우 일종의 일탈자로 낙인 받고 있다”며 “미혼 부모에 대한 과감한 지원정책이 필요하다”고 지적했다.

(Sources: left, top-right, bottom-right)

Kim Hye-young, a senior researcher at the Korean Women’s Development Institute, said, “An unwed mother is branded as a kind of deviant.  We need bold support policies for unwed parents.”

이영호 서울시 한부모가족지원센터장도 “우리사회는 다양한 가족이 있고 모든 가족은 행복할 권리가 있다”면서 “그러나 우리 사회에서 미혼모가 아기를 키우면서 자랑스럽게 또는 당당하게 양육의 경험을 공유하고 그 안에서 성장할 수 있을까란 의문이 들때가 많다”고 아쉬움을 드러냈다.

Lee Young-ho, head of the Seoul City Single Parent Family Support Center, also showed frustration:  “There are diverse families in our society, and all families have a right to be happy.  However, there are many times when I question whether unwed mothers, while raising their children, can proudly or confidently share their child-rearing experiences and develop in that [kind of environment], in our society.”

이에 최근 여성단체와 미혼모 보호 시설은 미혼모 인신 개선 사업을 적 극 펼치고 있다.

Accordingly, women’s organizations and unwed-mother shelters are currently actively engaging in a project to improve the perception of unwed mothers.

지난달 28일 서울시한부모가족지원센터와 20여 곳의 미혼모관련 단체들은 ‘미혼모지원단체협의체’를 발족하고 미혼모 인식 개선을 위한 다양한 논의를 시작했다.

On July 28, the Seoul City Single Parent Family Support Center and about twenty organizations for unwed mothers started the ‘Unwed Mother Support Organization Council” and began a variety of discussions designed to improve the perception of unwed mothers.

그 첫 번째 사업으로 사람들에게 부정적 이미지가 강했던 ‘미혼모’를 공모를 통해 ‘두리모’로 대체하기로 했다. 두리모란 ‘둥근’이라는 뜻과 둘이라는 숫자를 의미하는 방언 ‘둘레’가 조합된 것이다.

For their first project, they agreed through a public contest to replace “unwed mother”, which had a strong negative image, with “doo-ree mother.” “Doo-ree mother” combines the meaning “round” [doong-geun] with the regional dialect word dool-leh, which means “two people.”


정치권ㆍ기업, 미혼모 자립위해 노력 / Efforts by political groups, business for unwed mothers’ independence [ability to support themselves]

정치권에선 ‘미혼모 자립’을 위해 관련법을 정비하고, 토론회를 통해 다양한 의견을 청취하고 있다. 기업들도 미혼모를 우선 채용하는 등 이들의 자립을 위해 힘을 쏟고 있다.

Political groups are modifying laws in order for ‘independence for unwed mothers,’ and through panels, they are listening to diverse opinions.  Through actions like prioritizing hiring unwed mothers, businesses are also devoting themselves to the cause of their independence.

특히 민주당 최영희 의원(국회 여성가족위원회)은 미혼모에 대한 지원을 확대하는 내용을 담은 ‘입양촉진 및 절차에 관한 특례법 전부개정안’ 등 관련법을 최근 국회에 제출하는 등 법 만들기에 앞장서고 있다.

Democratic Party Assemblywoman Choi Young-hee (National Assembly Gender Equality and Family Committee), in particular, is leading the way in making laws, some of which are currently submitted to the National Assembly, like “Overall Revision Bill for the Special Act Relating to Promotion and Procedure of Adoption,” the contents of which expand support for unwed mothers.

또한 지난 3일에는 한국미혼모가족협회·한국여성정책연구원와 공동주최로 ‘미혼모 지원정책 개선방안’ 포럼을 개최했다.


Also, on June 3, the Korean Unwed Mother Families Association and the Korean Womens Development Institute co-hosted the “Unwed Mothers Support-Policy Improvement Measures” forum.

이날 최 의원은 “해외입양의 90%가 미혼모의  자녀라는 점은 우리 사회의 아픈 현실을 반영하는 것”이라며 “직접 양육하기를 원하는 미혼모가 늘어나고 있는 만큼 양육비 지원을 현실화 하고 지역사회에서 안정적인 생활을 할 수 있도록 정부의 적극적인 지원이 시급하다”고 지적했다.

On that day, Assemblywoman Choi said, “That 90% of international adoption is the children of unwed mothers reflects our society’s painful reality.  As the number of unwed mothers who want to raise their children themselves rises, the government’s active support is urgently needed to actualize aid for child-raising expenses for a stable life in a community.”

한편 이날 포럼에서 김혜영 한국여성정책연구원 박사는 ‘양육미혼모의 자립기반실태와 지원방안’에 대한 연구결과를 발표했다.

Also at this forum, Dr. Kim Hye-young, researcher at the Korean Women’s Development Institute, revealed the results of a study on the “Current State of Groundwork for Independence of and Ways to Support Unwed Mothers Raising Children.”

김 연구원은 “60%가 넘는 미혼모가 양육비와 교육비의 문제로 어려움을 겪고 있고, 80%이상은 월세와 같은 불안정적인 주거생활을 하는 것으로 나타났다”면서 “안정적인 자립기반 구축을 위해 미혼모 가족에 대한 조기 개입의 필요성과 함께 지원의 폭을 보다 확대할 필요가 있다”고 주장했다.

Dr. Kim said, “It showed that over 60% of unwed mothers are struggling because of the costs of child-rearing and education, and more than 80% live in unstable housing situations like [those requiring] monthly rent. In order to build stable foundations for independence, early intervention for unwed-mother families, together with an expansion of the range of support, is necessary.” (Source, right)

또 목경화 한국미혼모가족협회 대표도 “우리나라의 미혼모정책은 시설에만 초점이 맞춰져 있어 시설에서 벗어나 자립을 하려는 미혼모들은 빈곤 상황을 쉽게 개선하지 못하는 실정이다”고 지적했다.

Furthermore, Mok Gyeong-hwa, a representative from the Korean Unwed Mothers and Families Association, pointed out, “Policies regarding unwed mothers in our country only focus on facilities, so unwed mothers who want to break free from facilities and live independently can’t easily improve their state of poverty.”

최 의원은 이날 논의된 내용을 바탕으로 ‘한부모가족지원법 개정안’과 ‘국민기초생활보장법 개정안’을 제출할 예정이다.

Assemblywoman Choi will present the “Single-Parent Family Support Law Amendment” and “National Basic Living Security Law Amendment” based on the discussions of that day.

기업들도 미혼모 자립을 위해 적극적으로 나서고 있다. 던킨도너츠와 배스킨라빈스를 운영하는 비알코리아는 미혼모 시설인 사회복지법인 동방사회복지회와 함께 미혼모 고용지원 협약을 체결하고, 던킨도너츠 매장에서 파트타임으로 근무하던 미혼모 정소향(21세) 씨를 정식 사원을 채용했다

Businesses are also actively taking a stand for the independence of unwed mothers.  BR Korea, which operates Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins, together with the  Eastern Social Welfare Society, a welfare corporation that is an unwed mother [support] facility, signed the Unwed Mothers Employment Support Agreement and recruited unwed mother Jeong So-hyang (21), who had been a part-time employee at a Dunkin Donuts shop,  as a permanent employee.

June 16, 2011.

Reporter: Cheon Won-gi (천원기,

Growing up Adopted: Asian Premiere Production of “Between”

A one-woman show about adoption by Amy Mihyang, Between:

…encapsulates her experiences as a Korean American woman, a New Yorker, and most of all, a transracial adoptee. Bringing the audience with her on the plane en route from NYC to Korea, the author contrasts her journey with the echoes of other adoptees and those touched by the act of adoption.  Mihyang makes us ask ourselves, “Do we need to know where we came from in order to know where we’re going?”

And as The Korea Herald describes her performance:

Mihyang adeptly embraces her characters ― from a confused young girl, desperate to assimilate in America, to a distraught woman confronting a forbidden pregnancy in Korea ― with heart-felt conviction, shifting the audience from empathy-laden sadness to laughter with ease.

For more details, see the press release here, or click on the poster below:

Apologies to readers for not mentioning the show earlier, but fortunately there’s still many chances to see it later this week!^^