Hope is faint for a growing number of Korean-Filipino or “Kopino” children in the Philippines, whose South Korean fathers left without word to their Filipino mothers.
These children are often born to young Filipino women living in poverty. Their fathers, coming to the Philippines for different purposes, somehow manage to build relationships with these women and make all sorts of promises to win their “love.”
It’s all fun and games until these South Korean men are told that they’ll become fathers. In a recent article, Korea Exposé recounted stories of three Filipino women who found themselves abandoned.
One of them is 23-year-old “Kristi,” who met a South Korean man through a blind date in Makati. She recalled the encounter as “love at first sight.” They dated for few months, but when she learned that he was already married and had children of his own, she decided to call it quits.
Unfortunately, Kristi was already pregnant after their break-up. The man stayed for a while, but vanished before Kristi gave birth.
“He told me ‘Don’t worry I’m here for you, I won’t leave you,’ but one month before giving birth, he just disappeared,” she said.
Another is 27-year-old “Esther,” who met her baby’s father through a dating app. He was on a business trip in Cebu, a province in central Philippines.
Esther, now pregnant for three months, told Korea Exposé:
“He said he liked me and wanted to marry me; he was so nice to me. He said he’d come back, but during his absence I found out I was pregnant. I told him and he said he was so happy. But since, he hasn’t come back, and has stopped contacting me.”
“Maria,” 27, has a slightly different story. According to her, the father of her baby admitted to being married and having children. However, he claimed that his marriage is loveless and that he would divorce his wife to settle with her. He made frequent trips between South Korea and the Philippines.
But it all went downhill when their affair was discovered. “His wife found out about the affair, and shortly after, I lost all contact with him,” Maria said.
With communication channels lost, these women would carry a new responsibility all by themselves for the rest of their lives. Still, they remain determined to fight for their children’s rights.
These babies, after all, are Korean nationals. Article 2 of South Korea’s Nationality Act states, “A person whose father or mother is a national of the Republic of Korea at the time of the person’s birth…shall be a national of the Republic of Korea.”
Abandoned by their fathers, proving the identity of Kopino children is the immediate obstacle. This is where organizations come to the picture, rendering aid to Filipino mothers in their pursuit of justice and a better life for their babies.
Among these bodies is Tacteennaeil, a non-profit group based in Seoul. Since 2005, it has been assisting Kopinos with financial and legal support.
The group is a witness to a 2014 ruling that favored two Kopinos who filed a lawsuit against their South Korean father, demanding their acknowledgement as his children.
Lee Young-hee, director of Tacteennaeil, told The Korea Times:
“This ruling was a wake-up call for many Korean men who become fathers while staying in the Philippines for sex, business or study. They usually come back home without any sense of responsibility for the children and the family.”
Lee noted two things to do to prevent more fatherless Kopinos: bring the irresponsible men to justice and raise awareness.
Meanwhile, the Kopino Children Association Inc. (KCAI) is the foremost advocate for the welfare of Kopino children and youth in the Philippines.
The organization offers educational assistance as well as workshops, counseling, medical and dental services, and perhaps most importantly, communication assistance to connect Kopino children to their South Korean fathers.
Today, there are some 30,000 Kopino children in the Philippines. Their search for justice continues, and while hope is hard to keep, their families, communities and organizations that support their needs remind themselves to keep faith.