'IMF Orphans' On The Rise

    November 24, 1998 19:43

    The number of children abandoned by their parents since the beginning of Korea's economic troubles last year is on the rise, leaving children to fend for themselves with the knowledge that their parents are alive and well somewhere. Until a few years ago, almost all orphaned children in Korea were children who were lost or abandoned, and most were too young to have any knowledge of their parents. Now it is not uncommon for parents to bring the children themselves, often after the children are old enough to have some knowledge and memory of family life. The economic difficulties have seen an increase in married couples divorcing for economic reasons, with parents who have lost their jobs or businesses and are no longer able to take care of their children, personally bringing them and leaving them at orphanages.

    The Seoul Metropolitan Government says that the number of telephone inquires it has received from people looking for orphanages is 70% higher than it was at the same time last year. The number of children left at orphanages this quarter is 593, up 218 compared to the same period last year, during which 375 children were abandoned.

    Lee Yeong-hee of the Metropolitan Government estimates that by the end of the year the number will be around 800, or twice that of last year and commented; "No one knows how long the economy will be allowed to destroy families."

    (Shin Yong-kwan, qq@chosun.com)

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