"Little Mom" Program in Gwangju: Stigma or Support?

The Hankyoreh reports this week on so-called “little moms” or unwed parent families. Read the Hankyoreh article here: Gwangju city government assisting young, unmarried parents

I want to appreciate that the Gwangju government has initiated programs to support unwed mothers. However, I am not a fan of the nicknames and terms attributed to the program, such as “little moms” or “little parents” because although having children between the ages of 18 to 24, these parents are adults and responsible for childrearing. The term ‘little’ seems to minimize their parenthood at a time when much work is being done by groups to combat stigmatization of unwed parents and to promote economic and educational opportunities to increase their participation in the workforce. Further, this program incorporates a mentoring initiative, and I am concerned that the "little moms" might face discrimination and disrepect from the authority vested in these mentors who are 'of the right age and personality to serve as a mother figure' to the 'young mothers' and encouraged to teach them about parenting. The rhetoric here already sounds problematic and stigmatizing against 'young' mothers.

In Gwangju the Community Chest of Korea “plans to offer around US$100 worth of baby products such as powdered milk and diapers each month to 20 selected households” but I wonder if this is sufficient to meet the needs of families, since no statistic was provided in the article. The article claimed that “no surveys on so-called "little mom families" have been conducted in South Korea” but that is just on-face false, haven’t they seen the surveys at KUMSN or couldn’t the Hankyoreh be bothered to do a lit review of family welfare and sociology departments at any of the national universities (like the survey we will cite below)? Maybe if they expanded their search terms beyond “little mom” to “unwed parent” they would have had some results to report.

Finally, the article reports that in addition to providing powdered milk and diapers to 20 familes, “the district also plans to provide emotional support to young families. Because many young parents in South Korea avoid public activity out of shame, instructors will be visiting families to provide parenting education, with psychological testing also made available as needed in partnership with private organizations.” This last bit concerns me, as home visits could become invasive and the mentoring program described in the article needs to be organized around supporting parents – rather than stigmatizing them further. As cited in our previous blog post Single Moms & Korean Fertility Policy 싱글맘와 한국의의 가족계획, according to Boonyoung Han’s 2011 survey of social services for unwed mothers, several mothers reported that state-recruited mentors discouraged them from raising their children and even went so far as to insinuate that their children would be better off if sent abroad for adoption. Mothers also reported that home visits invaded their privacy and that they felt disrespected for social workers and their ‘advice’ about parenting. Hopefully these problems identified in 2011 have offered a constructive criticism that will be taken into account in the Gwangju program.

Han, Boonyoung, Seoul National University, Social Services for Unwed Korean Mothers who are Rearing their Children, GOAL International Adoption Studies Forum, 2011.10.15.

KUMSN www.kumsn.org


Park Geun-Hye & Fashion: Still HATE this Double Standard

Thanks to the media for ongoing and questionable criticism of Park Geun-hye's [fashion] decisions. 

Jung Kyung-min, New York correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo, adds to the short list of fashion-focused coverage of Park Geun-Hye that I find questionable, but Jung takes it to a new and offensive level today in Joonang Daily's 'Wardrobe change may be due for Park.' 

After a lengthy description of all of the great things Michelle Obama has done for American fashion, the piece transitions to an incredibly offensive comparison and criticism of Park Geun-hye [with running commentary my own]:

"South Korea’s President-elect Park Geun-hye may wish to make fashion statements just as Michelle Obama has with her impressive style. The next president favors an up-do hairstyle reminiscent of her mother, Yuk Young-soo and pantsuits. Her decades-old fashion reflects her adherence to principles and self-control. However, unlike Michelle Obama, she has made it a strict secret what brands she wears.
She may have wanted to avoid unnecessary attention to her fashion when she was an opposition politician. As president, however, her fashion has a different meaning. She will be the face of the country, and her fashion will receive international attention."

[IF Park wishes to do so, she will on her own terms, without snarky criticisms like this article that rips on her style for being out-dated and boring. Maybe it is a secret because she wants people to discuss her POLICIES and not her fashion palette,or for any number of other reasons not to conflate politics and branding. Did past presidents announce their brand choices? I guess I missed that memo from Lee Myung-Bak.]

"It would be hard to find a better way to promote and advertise Korean fashion."

[Really? I don't think it would be hard to think of better ways to promote and advertise Korean fashion.

But first, is it reasonable to set this as a goal? Is this the job of a politician? Michelle Obama was already renowned for her fashion statements years ago, so why didn't the Joongang Daily or Korea Herald (see my previous post at 'Park Geun-Hye & Skirts: HATE this Double Standard') call upon Lee Myung-Bak to take his style up a notch and promote Korean brands?

Second, if promoting Korean fashion is a top priority, we can question whether or not the President-Elect's personal style is among the best ways to promote the industry. Why wouldn't Korean designers, or even celebrities (ex. 2NE1) that are already internationally famous as style icons perhaps be "better" for promotion and advertising? In addition, the Korean government has invested quite a bit of money in Korean fashion branding, hosting fashion events domestically and abroad to highlight designers and Korean style.]

"It would be thrilling to see a female president wearing accessories, shoes, bags and outfits from young Korean designers and domestic brands at meetings with foreign heads of state."

[MY EDITORIAL REVISION: It would be thrilling to see a female president wearing accessories, shoes, bags and outfits from young Korean designers and domestic brands at meetings with foreign heads of state.]

"I am already curious what Park will be wearing on her inaugural ceremony."

[I am really curious as to why this article pitch was picked up.]

QUIZ: Anyone know what President Lee, Bush or Obama are wearing in ANY of these pictures? Anybody care? I don’t, either.