[LA TIMES] S. Korean single mothers turn to theater to strike back against stereotypes

December 28, 2015

 

(Yonhap)

In socially conservative South Korea, single mothers are often ostracized by their families and can struggle to find jobs. (Yonhap)

[LOS ANGELES TIMES] — Soft acoustic guitar chords and sniffles from the audience provide the soundtrack as Lee Yeon-ji tells her story of life as a single mother in South Korea. A spotlight settling on her, she addresses her 4-year-old daughter:

“I was advised to put you up for adoption so you could be taken in by a rich family,” the 37-year-old office worker acknowledges, pausing to hold back tears. “Now I couldn’t imagine you being raised by someone other than me.”

Though the situation may not strike Americans as unusual, in South Korea it is an extreme rarity. The country of 50 million people counted just more than 10,000 single mothers in 2012, the latest year for which government statistics are available. That’s up from about 5,000 a decade earlier, but still only 0.02% of the population.

In socially conservative South Korea, single mothers are often ostracized by their families and can struggle to find jobs. A mother who raises a child out of wedlock is generally seen as selfish, depriving her child of a “fair chance” in a country where a two-parent home is viewed as vital to preparing youths for the hyper-competitive education and employment markets. In recent years, divorce has become more common, but couples tend to stay together until after their children reach adulthood.

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