South Korea "Baby box" pastor says new law brings more babies

Sun Oct 7, 2012 3:27pm EDT
 
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By Daum Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korean pastor who runs a "baby box" where mothers can leave unwanted infants has seen a sharp increase in the number of newborns being left there because, the pastor says, of a new law aimed at protecting the rights of children.

South Korea is trying to shed a reputation of being a source of babies for adoption by people abroad. It is encouraging domestic adoption and tightening up the process of a child's transfer from birth mother to adoptive parents.

The law that took effect in August is aimed at ensuring adoption is more transparent and makes it mandatory for parents to register newborns if they want to give them up.

But the regulation aimed at seeing more thorough records are kept, though well intentioned, has sparked a surge of undocumented babies being abandoned, said Pastor Lee Jong-rak.

"If you look at the letters that mothers leave with their babies, they say they have nowhere to go, and it's because of the new law," Lee told Reuters.

Lee, who opened his "baby box" for unwanted infants three years ago, said he had seen the number being left there shoot up from an average of five a month to 10 in August and 14 in September.

Despite the new law, Lee said he never forced mothers to provide information about the babies they leave in the box, built into the wall of his church in Nangok, a tough working-class neighborhood in the capital, Seoul.

Many of the babies abandoned in the box have physical or mental disabilities. Lee has adopted 10 of them himself and is in the process of adopting four more.   Continued...

 
A police officer collects DNA samples from two abandoned babies after the babies were left at a "baby box" at Joosarang church in Seoul September 20, 2012. A South Korean pastor of the church who runs a "baby box" where mothers can leave unwanted infants has seen a sharp increase in the number of newborns being left there because, the pastor says, of a new law aimed protecting the rights of children. South Korea is trying to shed a reputation of being a source of babies for adoption by people abroad. It is encouraging domestic adoption and tightening up the process of a child's transfer from birth mother to adoptive parents. Picture taken September 20, 2012. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji