There has been an increase in the number of foreign babies being put up for adoption in Korea, one of the side effects of the growing migrant worker population.
Babies who are born out of wedlock and abandoned by their foreign parents are ineligible for state health coverage and cannot enter public schools here. The only way they can survive in Korea is to be registered as Koreans so they can be adopted by couples overseas or sent to an orphanage here.
The Joosarang church in southern Seoul has had a "baby box" since 2009 where destitute mothers can place their baby and ring a bell to alert staff. Similar systems exist in 19 countries including the Czech Republic, Germany, Japan and Poland.
The church has received around 400 babies so far, including 10 who were clearly of foreign origin. Pastor Lee Jong-rak said, "We've been getting a growing number of inquiries from foreign migrant workers about putting babies up for adoption."
The abandoned babies are sent to childcare facilities and registered as Korean citizens after six months if their parents do not claim them. Any records of their foreign parents are erased.
Kim Hae-sung, another pastor, said, "This is happening because the government doesn't support babies whose parents are foreigners."
Kim said all babies that are abandoned here need proper care and attention regardless of their nationality. "There are no statistics on the number of foreign babies born out of wedlock and abandoned, because no government agency or adoption group wants to be responsible for them," he said.
"Besides, babies born out of wedlock between ethnic Koreans from China look like Korean babies, and most foreign migrant workers are not aware of the baby drop box, so the situation is probably far worse than we can imagine."