Juni still does not know why her mother took him to an orphanage.
With a younger brother and sister, Juni was dropped off at an orphanage named Sanrokwon in Seoul, Korea five years ago. Their mother has changed her phone number since then, leaving her children to become “orphans whose parent still exists somewhere.” From that day on, Juni has been a mother to her brother and sister.
Next year, Juni will have to leave her brother and sister. The law in South Korea stipulates that those aged 18 or older can no longer live at orphanages. For Juni, becoming an adult at age 18 also means that she has to force her to lose the rest of her family.
“We’ve had 2,876 children who were just like Juni last year alone,” said Mission to Promote Adoption (MPAK) chairman Suk-chun Choi, 60. “By law, they may be adults, but it’s virtually impossible for them to live independently. They’re being forced out to the streets without jobs.”
For children like Juni, MPAK is hosting a fundraising event on Nov. 2. The title of the event is “Break the Cycle.”
The title was inspired by the ill-advised cycle for Korean orphans. When they are forced to leave the orphanage, each one is granted $1,000 to $5,000. That is obviously not enough for them to sign an apartment lease. That is why at least two out of three end up subleasing a room. College admission rate among these children remains 28 percent, while their employment rate also remains low at just 41 percent.
“The children are living in a disastrous cycle,” Choi said. “We may not be able to help every one of these children, but we should do everything we can to do that.”
Founded in 1999, MPAK consists of Korean households which choose to publicly adopt orphans in South Korea. About 1,500 households are registered with the organizations. Choi himself was adopted by a white family in 1970 as a 14-year-old. That is why his English name is Steve Morrison. Disabled due to a leg injury, Choi was looked after by his loving family. Choi grew up to become an aerospace engineer. A 27-year veteran in the field, he has founded MPAK to give back to the love he received from his family. He is also a father of five children, two of whom were adopted.
For the last 18 years, MPAK has helped Korean households in the U.S. to adopt orphans in South Korea.
Next month’s fundraising event is the third of the year. The funds collected from the first event was used to start South Korea’s first ever “baby box.” Seoul-based protestant church JSR Community pastor Jong-rak Lee was granted $110,000 to look after the children admitted through the baby box system. The event in the following year donated $180,000 to two orphanage facilities in Korea, which provides homes for 250 children.
This year’s event will be held on Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. at Hollywood’s Taglyan Complex (1201 Vine St. LA, CA 90038). The donations will be handed over to Good Haven (goodhaven.or.kr) and Oak Tree Project (oaktreeproject.co.kr).
The Korea Daily asked why it has to be orphans in Korea who need more guidance.
“If you have the will to share someone’s pain, your goodwill can make an impact on anyone,” Choi said.
▶Inquiries: (562) 505-0695 MPAK/email firstname.lastname@example.org
By Koohyun Chung