SEOUL | On the surveillance video, we see the mother climbing the stairs of not hesitating. She opens a trap door in a wall that has a colourful décor reminiscent of a nursery. She lays her baby, and goes on.
She takes the head between the hands, but, at no time, do not look back. This woman will perhaps never see his little girl, she just leave it in this “box of babies” of Seoul.
Ravaged at the end of the war (1950-1953), the country has experienced a spectacular growth to reach the fourth place in the economy of the continent.
And for a time, he was also one of the main nurseries for foreigners seeking to adopt. Poverty, weak regulation, a country where we are jealous of the family bloodlines “pure”, and where one cultivates the idea of ethnic homogeneity: the unwanted children were legion.
Thus, since the 1950s, the United States alone have adopted 110 000.
But paradoxically, legislative changes intended to strengthen the rights of these children have had, as a corollary, an increase of dropouts and placements in an orphanage, and a decline in the number of adoptions.
Like the woman on the cctv footage, more than a thousand South Koreans have abandoned their children since 2010 in the “box of babies”.
It is a rectangular niche at a controlled temperature, arranged in the wall of a two-storey house transformed, by a small church in Seoul, refuge for babies abandoned.
They are collected a few days before being sent in an orphanage.
By guaranteeing anonymity, this device is controversial, also allows that abandonment is in the best conditions of safety and hygiene, since the repository of a baby triggers an alarm that will alert childminders.
On average, four babies arrive every week, some still had their umbilical cord.
Pastor Lee Jong-Rak, of the church of the community of Jusarang, popular district, in the south of the capital, has created this device in 2010 after learning that babies ended up in the street.
“Some teenage girls are giving birth in empty houses or public toilets. They emmaillotent their baby in an old shirt or a towel and we provide”, he said to the AFP.
One day, a baby arrived covered in dust. His father had intended to bury alive, he recalls: “the first shovelful, the mother has not supported and rescued the baby.”
The South Korean who do not wish to keep their baby can be transferred to adoption agencies which they also leave a written consent.
There is not so long ago, these agencies were not looking into the veracity of the information given.
But in 2012, a law was passed prohibiting strictly to these agencies to accept babies who do not have all of the necessary paperwork and requiring that adoptions be sanctioned by the court.
The purpose was to comply with the Hague Convention of 1993 on protection of children one of whose objectives is to enable the adopted children to be able to, one day, find their biological parents.
In 2010, when the “box” has been installed, four babies were placed in it. In 2013, they were 224.
Because of raising his child alone in South Korea is still too often a factor of exclusion.
If those who abandon their child to ensure their anonymity, it is also because before you hire, employers are checking the family history.
However, the official records keep track of a possible waiver of a child.
The “box” operates in a legal vacuum. The authorities may not approve, but they do not condemn it not because, as recognized by Kim Hye-Ji, an official with the ministry of social Affairs, the box allows objectively to save babies.
The authorities of the district of Gwanak have several times asked the pastor to close this “institution illegal, that encourages drop-outs”, according to the local head Min Seo-Young.
Adoptions in free fall
The act of 2012, which tightened the constraints around the adoption, has led to a drop of three-quarters the number of adoptions in foreign, which went from 916 to 236 in 2013.
And the south Korean authorities hope to ratify by the end of the year the Hague Convention, which stipulates that children must be adopted, preferably in their country of origin.
Also, the Korean authorities regulating all stages of the adoption process: understand the reasons for the abandonment, assess the skills of parents who wish to adopt, and ensure that once adults, the children will be able to return to their family of origin.
But Cho Tae-Seung, a colleague of pastor Lee, feared that all this regulation does not encourage even more mothers to get rid unlawfully and dangerously close to the children.