SEOUL, Nov. 21 (Korea Bizwire) — The recent death of a middle school student in Incheon who fell from an apartment rooftop after being assaulted by classmates is turning into a hot button issue as the victim turned out to be a child from a multicultural, single-parent family.
The victim’s mother is a Russian national who had been taking care of her child alone after losing contact with her husband.
In an interview, the mother blamed herself for not having protected her son, as she was overwhelmed with work and raising a child alone.
This is a classic example of how multicultural, single-parent families in South Korea are exposed to double layers of vulnerabilities that come from being multicultural as well as being a single parent household.
For them, there are more difficulties in carrying out economic activities, as their relatives and other family members tend to live overseas, which makes it harder to call on them for help.
A poor economic environment can undermine the health and psychological stability of the parent, while children are deprived of educational opportunities as well as proper protection.
A recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family showed that as of 2015, 4.8 percent (13,455 households) out of all multicultural households (278,036 households) in South Korea are single-parent families.
Among multicultural, single-parent households, 4 percent (11,176 households) are composed of married immigrants or naturalized citizens raising their children alone.
In contrast, the number of multicultural, single-parent households with a Korean parent in charge of the household is minimal.
For single-parent households with married immigrants or naturalized citizens raising their children alone, only 18.6 percent said they receive aid from the divorced or separated spouse in the form of child support, which means 8 out of 10 are not receiving the support they need to raise their children properly.
The lack of financial support compels immigrants and naturalized citizens to jump into the labor market, most of the time without proper time for preparation.
Cultural differences and communication barriers only make it harder for them to obtain employment.
In turn, this vicious cycle drives them into simple labor that does not require professional expertise or skills, but typically with a low salary and poor working environment.
“There are a limited number of job opportunities for foreign mothers, especially when they suddenly find themselves in a situation where they have to raise a child alone,” said Wang Ji-yeon, president of the Coalition of Immigrant Women in Korea.
“Most of them work at restaurants or cleaning companies, many times over 12 hours a day, depriving them of the chance to educate or communicate with their children.”
Experts emphasize the need to restructure the current multicultural, single-parent policies to focus more on the child, and develop more effective delivery mechanisms to achieve these initiatives.
“While policies for multicultural, single-parent families are being improved, there is still a need to develop a delivery system where district offices and other local authorities can inform those requiring assistance,” said Kwon Mi-kyoung, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Child Care and Education.
“The mother and the child alone cannot deal with all the difficulties coming from being a multicultural, single-parent family, and this is where schools and society should come in to support them.”
Lina Jang (firstname.lastname@example.org)