China News Network Seoul, July 7 Question: What are the frequent "ghost children" incidents in South Korea?

Written by Liu Xu Wan Jiaxin

Recently, the "ghost child" case in South Korea has attracted much attention. On July 7, local time, the Ministry of Health and Welfare of South Korea released the results of the "ghost child" case investigation, saying that there were more than 18,2100 "ghost children" without household registration in South Korea, of which 249 were confirmed dead, accounting for nearly 12%.

"Ghost children" are babies who have birth records in hospitals but are not registered. The "ghost child" incident continued to escalate and ferment, and its findings once again shocked Korean public opinion, and all walks of life in South Korea began to explore the reasons behind the frequent emergence of "ghost children".

Data map: On the streets of South Korea, crowds are crossing the street.

South Korea's "Ghost Child Case"

According to Yonhap News Agency on June 6, the South Korean prosecutor's office revealed that the South Korean prosecutor's office began to conduct regular audits of the Ministry of Health and Welfare in March this year to observe whether there are loopholes in the South Korean government's welfare system. However, the monitoring found that more than 22,3 babies born between 2015 and 2022 were not registered after birth. So the procuratorate randomly sampled more than 2000 people out of 2000 percent of the more than 1,20 people, and asked the police and local self-government groups to conduct detailed investigations.

During a sample investigation of the baby of a 34-year-old woman A, located in Suwon, South Korea, prosecutors found that the woman gave birth to her daughter at 2018 p.m. on November 11, 3, and strangled her the next day after taking her home. On November 2, 2019, she gave birth to another baby boy and killed the baby in the same way on the way home from the hospital.

South Korean police said the bodies of the two babies were stored in the refrigerator for four years and seven months and three years and seven months, respectively. The suspect said there was "no particular reason" for storing the body in the refrigerator.

In addition to analyzing A's digital tracking data and hospital medical records, the Korean prosecutor's office also concluded that this was a planned murder based on evidence that Person A had not prepared for parenting at the time of childbirth through medical consultation commissions, autopsy evaluations, etc.

On July 7, local time, Choi Luoying, director of the Female and Child Crime Investigation Department of the Suwon District Prosecutor's Office in South Korea, said that suspect A of the "Suwon Refrigerator Dead Baby Case" was transferred to the court for trial on suspicion of murder and hiding corpses.

After the "Suwon refrigerator dead baby case" and other cases of unregistered babies being killed or abandoned, public opinion shocked. The South Korean government began investigating the "ghost children" problem on June 6.

Korean media also disclosed a number of cases involving "ghost children" recently investigated by the police:

In April 2019, in Daejeon, about 4 kilometers south of Seoul, a mother starved to death after giving birth to a child who neglected her child and did not feed her child for three days;

On July 2023, 7, police in Gyeongsangnam-do, South Korea, said they had issued arrest warrants for a man in her 2s and a woman in her 20s for strangling their children and dumping their bodies in a river near Geoje, Gyeongsangnam-do.

From June 6 to June 28, the Ministry of Health and Welfare and local governments conducted a census of 7,2123 cases of unhouseless children. According to the survey, 2015 deaths have been confirmed among the 2022,2123 "unhouseholded children" born between 249 and 11 who were not registered for birth, accounting for 7.1025%. Another 814,35 survived, 7 pending further investigation, and the remaining 8 were misreported by medical institutions. The police preliminarily determined that the guardians of the seven deceased children (a total of <> people) were suspected of committing crimes and sent the relevant cases for examination.

Why are "ghost children" incidents so frequent?

While the results of all the results of the "ghost children" in South Korea were made public, people from all walks of life in South Korea couldn't help but wonder what is the reason behind the frequent emergence of "ghost children".

Kim Yoon-shin, a professor at the Chosun University School of Medicine in South Korea, published a paper in May titled "Forensic Analysis of Abandoned Infants, Deadly Crimes," Seoul Shimbun reported. Kim Yoon-shin collected 5 cases of infant abandonment and infant deaths between 2013 and 2021, and analyzed 91 cases in which infants under 1 year old were victims (20 cases of abandonment resulting in death and 10 cases of abandonment), except for cases in which superiors and subordinates were repetitive or lack of detailed information.

The results showed that, by age, there were 20 cases of mothers in their 13s at the time of abandonment, accounting for 65%. followed by 30 cases in their 3s, 10 cases in their 2s, and 40 case in their 1s; According to marital status, there were 18 cases of unmarried women and 2 cases of marriage. One of the two married cases gave birth during an extramarital affair, but the other one was a couple who became pregnant and gave birth, and it is worth mentioning that the mother, who abandoned the child with her husband, abandoned the child twice, citing financial situation.

According to the survey, these women who abandoned their babies often did so for more than two reasons, the most common reason being "fear of being known about the fact of childbirth" (12 cases). Among them, fear of being known by parents was the highest, with 7 cases. In addition, there are family members (1 case), stepfathers (1 case), spouses (1 case), etc.

The second reason for abandonment of infants was "difficulty in raising them for financial reasons" (8 cases). Of the 20 cases, only one resulted in a real sentence and 1 with a suspended sentence. At the same time, 19 out of 20 cases, or 2 per cent, re-committed abandonment of infants.

"In order to prevent the crime of abandoning infants, our society should develop responsible sex education and fundamental policy responses that take into account economic conditions," the research team said. Women who do not wish to conceive and give birth should be actively involved. ”

Another Korean media analysis believes that the large number of "ghost children" incidents has exposed the loopholes in the South Korean birth registration system.

According to South Korea's Resident Registration Act, parents need to register their child's birth within one month of birth, but if they violate the regulations, the fine is only 5,277 won (about <> yuan), and hospitals are not obliged to report the birth of the baby to the government. This means that if babies are not registered, incidents of their abandonment or killing are difficult to expose.

Park Myung-suk, a professor at Sangji University in South Korea, said that most of the abandoned babies exposed this time were caused by unwed mothers, and "these children should be discovered and protected."

Park Myung-sook said, "I want to start paying attention to the unprotected children around me from the local community. The role of public institutions alone is limited, so it is necessary for the public and the public to work together, communicate, dig up and discover the truth, and "the most important thing is to change understanding and establish a better system so that pregnant women in crisis, such as unwed mothers, can have children without hiding."

The feasibility of a full investigation is slim

In fact, if the total number of respondents were expanded to 2014, there would likely be more cases of similar "ghost children," because the "temporary newborn number" became widely available in Korea in 2015.

The "temporary newborn number" is a 7-digit number given by Korean medical institutions for the vaccination of newborn babies before the birth declaration. Parents of newborns first enter the integrated vaccination management system with a temporary newborn number, and then replace it with an identity card number after declaring the birth.

The Korea Disease Management Agency said that although South Korea has been using temporary newborn numbers since 2009, the management function has been perfected since 2015, so it is difficult to accurately calculate the data before then.

Choi Hye-young, a member of the Democratic Party of Korea, also explained: "Before 2014, the calculation data information was inaccurate due to the lack of management of temporary newborn numbers, resulting in duplicate registration and guardian registration errors. ”

For example, Gyeonggi Province, South Korea, has announced the status of children born before 2014 who leave only temporary newborn numbers in the system, with 2009,2014 undeclared children from 3454 to 2015, up from 8 in the eight years since 624. Gyeonggi Province said: "There may have been mismanagement in the past. ”

Some South Korean experts stressed the need for efforts to identify more undeclared children who have not yet been identified in the full survey. However, when Lee Ki-il, the first official of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, announced last month's plan for the full survey, he said about whether to expand the number of survey targets: "We will give priority to more than 2,000 people, and then observe various situations." ”

The South Korean government is actively amending the law

In order to make up for the loopholes in South Korea's birth registration system, on June 6, local time, the South Korean National Assembly held a plenary session to pass amendments to the Family Relationship Registration Act that implements the birth notification system. Under the new law, the head of a medical institution must notify the Health Insurance Review Institute within 30 days of the baby's birth. If the parents do not register the newborn within one month of the birth, government officials at all levels must notify the mother and other reporting obligors to register within 14 days. However, the bill does not include a penalty provision for failure to notify birth medical institutions.

On July 7, local time, the South Korean National Assembly held a plenary session to vote to pass the amendment to the Criminal Law, increasing the punishment for killing and abandoning infants, abolishing the crime of infanticide with a lighter sentence, and applying the amendment to the Criminal Law for the crime of general homicide, and the sentence was increased to the death penalty. This is the first time in 18 years that South Korea has amended the relevant law, and the amendment will come into force in six months.

In addition, the Ministry of Health and Welfare plans to actively support the passage of relevant bills by the Korean National Assembly so that the birth notification system can be introduced at the same time as the birth notification system is implemented in July next year. The birth protection system is a system that allows pregnant women to give birth without revealing their real names at medical institutions, and local self-governing bodies to register their children and take protective measures. Records of births will be transferred to public institutions for permanent preservation.

In addition, in order to prevent "pregnant women in crisis" such as unwed mothers from giving up parenting, the relevant Korean departments are jointly preparing plans to strengthen pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting support.

"In the future, we plan to continue to confirm the whereabouts and safety of children in the protection blind spots of unregistered children," Lee said. By formulating measures to support pregnant women in crisis, we will fundamentally address the legalization of the birth protection system and support the safe growth of all children born. (End)