Customer to customer (C2C) second-hand businesses in Korea are growing rapidly with the shift from websites to easy to use applications. Danggeun Market, the startup behind Karrot, is one of the preeminent second-hand transaction mobile applications available on the market today. It was launched in 2015. The name, Danggeun Market means ‘near you’ and implies a warm-hearted local community that has lively communication between neighbors connected through the app’s location system. The app offers users direct dealing in second-hand goods, with your neighbors. While the concept is simple enough, the app has been embroiled in a controversy when a user posted her newborn baby for adoption on the site.
|▲ A post entitled ‘I'm giving a child for adoption. She is 36 weeks old.’ was uploaded to the site. (Photo from newsis)|
On October 16, a post entitled ‘I'm giving a child for adoption. She is 36 weeks old.’ was uploaded to the site. The author uploaded two photos of the sleeping baby wrapped in blanket with asked price of 200,000 won. Market users were shocked and shared copies of the post on social media calling for the author to be punished. The mother was also reported to the police and the page administrator asked the writer to delete the post. The Jeju Provincial Police Agency were able to identify the mother by tracing her IP address. While many netizens claimed that she violated Child Welfare Law and had to be strongly punished, the police opted to invoke protection measures instead of punishing her considering her emotional and physical state. The mother bore her child on October 13 and immediately following the birth wanted to surrender the child for adoption. She received counseling for her decision and was told that under Korean law, she had to keep the child for a week before it could be placed in care. She posted the ad in frustration. “I decided to give the child up for adoption because I thought it would be difficult to take care of her without a father,” she said. “I uploaded the with post in anger after I had counseling at the Unwed Mothers Center. I deleted it right after I recognized that it was wrong.” The police decided to find ways to support her, triggering nationwide interest in the services available for unwed mothers and the complicated adoption process.
|▲ A chat window with a carrot market child seller. (Photo from Kookminilbo)|
According to the 2015 Korean Population and Housing Census Report, there are about 24,000 unwed mothers living in Korea and about 9,000 unmarried fathers living in Korea. Among them, 5,356 single mothers range from 10 to 29, accounting for about 22 percent of the total number. Statistics also show that 97.9 percent of children adopted abroad in 2016 were children of single mothers. This is a strong indication that our society is still a hostile environment for single mothers to raise their own children.
The reality is there is very little financial support available. Low-income grandparents and single parents under the age of 24 receive a flat fee of 50,000 won per child per month for every child under the age of 5. In addition, the government provides 44,100 won per year to parents of middle and high school students, from low-income single-parent families, to purchase school supplies. Low-income single-parent families who are admitted to single-parent family welfare facilities are provided 50,000 won per month as a living subsidy. However, single mothers who earn more than the qualified the low-income bracket do not have access to any government help.
The problem of extracting support from non-parenting parents is even more serious. A petition was posted on the bulletin board of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae asking for the enactment of a "Hit & Run Prevention Act" which would help single parents track the absent parent and extract support payments to help raise the child. The petition has garnered the support of 217,054 people. In the case of single mothers, it takes an average of three months just to find the location of the absent parent through the court, and it takes at least eight months to two years to settle any lawsuit for financial support. In addition, the process is ineffective if the income of the non-parent is less than 1.5 million won per month. In addition, even if single parents receive child support money through lawsuits, they may be excluded from the receiving the list of basic livelihood support or single-parent support because their total income exceeds the threshold for support.
Complicating the problems further are the intricacies of the current adoption process. Some believe it needs to be reformed to account for the capacity of underprivileged single parents. According to current legislation, a single parent needs permission from family court to adopt out their child. This means the parent has to prepare several documents like the birth certificate and a consent form and seek permission from family court to proceed. In 2012, the requirement for adoptions changed from a simple reporting system in the administrative court to a sanction system at family court in 2012. This greatly complicated matters for single parents suffering from financial hardship.
The Dankook Herald (DKH) conducted an in-depth interview with a representative from Hope Wing, a Korean network supporting single mothers. They suggested that a single-parent family support act should be focused on providing wraparound care and supporting income, but also ensure single parents complete education courses and minimize any disruptions to family life. “The case of the mother posting her child’s adoption online was obviously not the right thing to do, but we need to look at the current adoption process and integrated support policies for pregnancy and childbirth.” The support network is calling for an integrated support and social care, so that the biological mother can make an informed decision on the child's fate, whether to rear or place it for adoption. They said, "The biggest problem is the social perception of unwed mothers.” According to a survey of 359 single mothers, conducted by the organization Korea Population, 82.7 percent of the respondents said they were the victim of negative comments towards being a single mother, and 27.9 percent said they were forced to resign from their jobs. They added, "Our country still believes that families are formed around the birth of children by marriage. Therefore, there is still a tendency to view non-marital births as a social deviation, moral hazard, sexual promiscuity or a lack of sexual knowledge, all of which serves as severe prejudice against single mothers.”
The Hope Wing representative said, "We look forward to the day when unmarried mothers are viewed as courageous women who raise their children despite the obstacles they face and when the single mother family is readily accepted as just one of the various types of families we have in society." For this to happen, both parents need to contribute to the child rearing expenses and allow kids to maintain relationships with their disconnected original family.
Despite calls for much needed change, childcare continues to be viewed as something anyone can do, without the need for public support. However, it is clear that many changes are necessary to ensure those with the least chance of success are given access to the same privileges afforded to children of two parent families.
구시현, 류시은, 권유지, 김서연 firstname.lastname@example.org