Created image: Removing 'illegitimate' children 1980s-present

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November 24, 2018

Critical Commentary

Substantive Caption: I created this image using an archive photo from Yonhap News and a personal photo. The photo on the left is of the "Babybox" located in Seoul. The "Babybox" photo shows the following text (in Korean) displayed on a window above which says, "For children with disabilities or of unwed mothers that there is no way you can raise. Instead of abandoning your baby, grab the handle below and place them here." Below the window and above the handle, the text from Psalms 27:10 can be seen, "For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in." Below the image of a rainbow and a baby and a box, "Jesus loves you" is written (in English). 

The photo on the right is of two banners hanging on the outside of the offices of Social Welfare Society (SWS) adoption agency located in Seoul. The banner on the left says, "We will listen to each word from an unwed mother" with an image below of a woman holding an infant and smiling down at it. The photo is reminiscent of a mother-baby post-childbirth photo. The second banner says, "Adoption is the most special happiness in the world" with an image above of a woman holding a baby and smiling. 

Design Statement: 

Finally, I am interested in examining the ways that adoption has been used to reinforce the hegemonic heterosexual two-parent family structure in South Korea. Since the 1980s and still today, upwards of eighty percent of all of the children sent for adoption in the 1980s were the children of unwed mothers. This percentage increased in the 1990s, so that today the children of unwed mothers constitute over ninety percent of adopted Korean children. The most recent statistics show that in 2012, ninety-two percent of the children sent for overseas adoption were the children of unwed mothers (Ministry “2012 Statistical”). This is unsurprising given the fact that, typically, when women become pregnant outside of marriage in Korea and choose to give birth, families heavily pressure the mothers to give the child up for adoption. In other words, although adoption is often seen as a symbol of multiculturalism and non-traditional, pluralistic family structures in the West, it has paradoxically stifled the acceptance of diverse family formations in South Korea, particularly single mother-headed families. 

Source: Ministry of Health and Welfare. “1958–2008 Statistical Report on Unwed Mothers and
Adoption.” http://stat.mw.go.kr/, 2010. Accessed 12 May 2017.
———. “2012 Statistical Report on Domestic and International Adoption.” Ministry of
Health and Welfare. http://www.mohw.go.kr/react/index.jsp/, 2012. Accessed 12
May 2017.

Ministry of Health and Welfare. “1958–2008 Statistical Report on Unwed Mothers and

Adoption.” http://stat.mw.go.kr/, 2010. Accessed 12 May 2017.
———. “2012 Statistical Report on Domestic and International Adoption.” Ministry of
Health and Welfare. http://www.mohw.go.kr/react/index.jsp/, 2012. Accessed 12
May 2017.