The Indignities of Single Fatherhood

Song Jeong-in Song Jeong-in

There was a strange man holding a solitary protest at Gangnam subway station with a big poster attached to a baby carriage. It said that he is a single father but could not raise his child properly because the law in Korea didn't allow him to register the baby's birth. The law says that a single father cannot register his child's birth without the biological mother.

When a woman gives birth to a baby and runs away, leaving the child and father behind, the man can do nothing to register the birth. This makes it difficult for single fathers to raise their children and often causes them to abandon them. The law should be immediately revised to allow single dads to register their own children, as single mothers can.

A documentary on SBS on April 4 showed that many single dads fail to raise their babies on their own because their children in effect do not legally exist. Even a DNA match of 99.9 percent is no help. Single dads must go through at least four complicated court procedures to register their babies' birth. Those trials take anywhere from three months to a year. Many single fathers give up because of huge amount of money and time required.

Since most single dads have to be with unregistered children all the time and cannot legally leave them at daycare centers, it is hard for them to find a regular job. And that means they cannot afford the money for the court hearings. Also, children without birth certificates cannot get medical care services.

In Britain, fathers have more rights. For unmarried couples, either parent can register the birth, and fathers need a document from the court giving them parental responsibility.

According to statistics, single parent households in Korea have been steadily increasing to 1.68 million in 2012. Even though there are no data on how many of these are single fathers, it is clear that there are far more single mothers than single fathers, but does not mean the government can neglect these men.

Korea has the lowest birthrate in the OECD of 1.18 in 2013. The problem cannot be chalked up to individuals only. Why would people want to have babies and raise them when the government does not give them their full support? This is an opportunity for the government not only to eliminate a grave injustice but to do something constructive for Korea's future. Single fathers need more attention, support and rights.

By Song Jeong-in, a student at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

englishnews@chosun.com / Jun. 06, 2014 08:27 KST