Jong-rak Lee, the pastor of the ‘Jesus Love Community Church,’ came up with the idea of ‘baby box’ to take care of abandoned babies. The baby boxes were designed to provide a safe environment for babies. They are warm inside and signal when they have been opened. The baby boxes allow babies to be abandoned anonymously and humanely. To date, Jong-rak Lee has saved more than 1,519.
The number of abandoned babies has been increasing dramatically, and one of the major reasons of this includes the absence of an effective welfare system and prejudice against single mothers. Jong-rak Lee was determined to make a baby box after he found a baby with a disgusting smell abandoned in a fish box. Babies are also abandoned in restrooms, on mountains, and even on the rooftops of buildings. Baby boxes help save babies from dying of diseases or exposure to the elements.
In addition, mothers who were forced to give up their child due economic or psychological problems, can find and raise their child whenever they become able to do so. Jong-rak Lee said, “Many unmarried teenage mothers have not been protected in our society economically and socially. They have to leave schools and don’t have the opportunity to get a job. Until the government takes this into consideration and supports them, I will raise the babies for both of them.” Not only has he counseled mothers with difficulty and persuaded them not to abandon their children, but he has also supported them with powdered milk, diapers and baby products.
Furthermore, the baby boxes have decreased the rate of abortions in Korea, which is nearly the highest in the World. Because abortion is physically and psychologically damaging, many mothers have no choice but to give birth and then send their baby to the baby box. This is the only way to save both mothers and babies.
Some people are against baby boxes due to the increasing number of abandoned babies. It is true that the number has been increasing, but in the past many babies had been deserted and died on the street and many mothers suffered from the memory of babies they had reluctantly abandoned. The baby box helps both to live in society.
The government should give more attention and consideration to the seriousness of abandoned babies. They must develop more effective ways to ensure the welfare of abandoned babies. Until then, baby boxes will continue to provide a safety net for mothers and the babies they are unable to raise.
"Baby box" is a strange word. Because "baby," the world's most valuable, and "box," used to hold or pack things, are connected in one word. In our society, however, "baby box" is commonly used as a moving story to save a child's life. How did the baby box become the only salvation for our children? Here's the logic put forth by people who justify baby boxes. "The fragile mother, who has no safe and private place, will abandon the infant, and in the end, the infant will die alone, or the mother will kill the infant herself. And the ‘Act on Special Cases concerning Adoption’, not the baby box, is responsible for the increase in infant being abandoned. And since there are baby boxes in advanced countries, our society deserves and needs to set up baby boxes."
Despite this socially accepted idea, studies and statistics have shown quite different results for baby boxes and their relationship to the problems of infanticide and abandonment. Ross Oke, head of TRACK, a joint overseas adoption group, says parents who try to kill infants or abandon their children can be divided into two different groups. The parents who kill their children are mostly underage groups. They deny the pregnancy and see killing the infants as an act of prolongation. Or, under severe stress from the birth of a child, they want to get rid of the evidence.
However, parents who dump their children in baby boxes are a group willing to abandon their babies without killing newborns or infants. These are people who recognize pregnancy, predict difficulties after childbirth, or decide that there is no solution to the problem, even though they have tried to raise the child for a certain period. In other words, the latter group is determined to save the child. Jeong Ik-joong, a professor of social welfare at Ewha University, told an academic seminar hosted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare in May 2013 that an average of one child per month has been killed by their biological parents for 12 years from 2000, which shows that the baby box, established in 2009, has failed to change such infanticide. Therefore, infanticide and baby box are not related at all.
Second, the increasing infant abandonment is associated with a rise in public awareness caused by excessive media coverage, the law on infant abandonment, and the spread of misinformation. Let's look at this statistic.
It was December 2009 when baby boxes were installed, and in the following three years, there was extensive media coverage about baby boxes, with as many as 270 stories being reported. In particular, stories on baby boxes appeared intermittently until they exploded in January 2013 child abandonment was cited as a cause for the revised special law on adoption. In the five-month period from January to May 2013, there were 9.5 times more stories concerning baby boxes than there had been over the entire three-year period from 2009-2012. The number of abandoned children also exploded in tandem with the sharp rise in awareness of baby boxes, with the total number of children abandoned in the first five months of 2013 rising about six-fold from 2010. The total number of children abandoned in the baby boxes during the five-month period equaled the total abandoned in the previous three years. Jane Jung Trenka, the head of the TRACK, provides a sophisticated statistical analysis of the case in her thesis on a master's thesis.
The increase in baby box awareness caused by media reports has consequently driven child abandonment. The explosion in media reports made people aware that they could dump their children anonymously in the baby boxes, and the child would be taken care warmly. But baby boxes are not responsible for raising children. When babies are usually reported to the police, they are transferred to the city's child welfare center and sent back to child facilities. Experts point out that problems can arise in the process of babies moving around like this. In other words, a newborn baby suffers psychological and emotional instability as he or she continues to move around.
Third, the argument that Korea should also install baby boxes along with advanced countries is absurd, as some advanced countries, such as Germany and Russia, have banned baby boxes from their countries. For example, the Czech Republic abolished them at the request of the U.N. Such a request from the U.N. is because baby boxes infringe upon a child's basic rights. Baby boxes are anonymous, so information about a child's biological parents is nowhere to be found. This would violate the Children's Rights Agreement, which was unanimously adopted by 193 countries including Korea, at the United Nations in 1989. Article 7 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child states that "children should be registered as soon as they are born, and they have the right to know their parents and to be raised by their parents as much as possible." Also, the fact that there is no reasonable way for children found in baby boxes to get information about their origins also runs counter to the content of Article 8 paragraph 1 of the Convention, which stipulates their right to have an identity.
Furthermore, under the current law, leaving a child in a baby box is a crime because of child abandonment. Article 272 of the Criminal Code stipulates that "when a person's immediate existence is unable to raise a child, in order to cover up his disgrace, for other reasons, he shall be sentenced to not more than two years in prison or fined 3 million won." In other words, the organization that runs the baby box is an agency that has not been authorized by the government, and the damage from it also goes to the children. If a child is found to be ill, he or she is forced to stay in a private hospital, which is very expensive, and because it is not a formal facility, he or she is not guaranteed a budget, which leads to a bigger problem.
The persistent link between the infanticide and baby box hides direct criticism of parents abandoning a child, but it can also be interpreted as an argument that parents are killing a child in cases where he or she is abandoning the child to death. The media has only replaced the social trauma of separation through baby boxes of mothers and children with a compassionate drama. Baby boxes do not solve child abandonment issues at the source nor are they effective in the long run because they are just a stopgap measure. Rather, baby boxes or similar methods can send wrong messages to parents who have economic and psychological difficulties. If you are uncomfortable to say that the baby box guarantee the safe abandonment of the child without talking about child welfare, such a stopgap measure can delay or block the improvement of the system for child welfare. Therefore, baby boxes should be abolished.
L.L.F Ju-Won Hwang
박지원, 황주원 firstname.lastname@example.org