Baby Box in South Korea: a safe haven for unwanted newborns

baby box

Jungwoo Kang

Ewha Law School

A pastor Lee, Jong-rak created this so-called Baby Box where any parents can drop their babies instead of abandoning them on the street or, in worst cases, killing them. The pastor built the box in a wall of his church in 2009 after a life-changing event happened to him. A baby was abandoned on the doorstep on a cold winter night. The baby was left in a cardboard box which was not enough to keep the baby warm from the cold Korean winter. From the start of the baby box, it has saved more than 1000 lives. The Baby Box is open 24/7 and is run by its full-time staffs who take shifts every 12 hours, and volunteers who take care of the infants in need. The organisation is supported by donation. Once a baby arrives, s/he stays there for less than a week and are sent to orphanages where they can follow a procedure for an adoption.

The reasons of using Baby Box vary; the fear of having a child unmarried or underage, having a baby outside marriage, or lack of financial resources or emotional supports to raise a kid. Some parents come back to reclaim their babies. Around 120 parents have come back. The need for the box mainly comes from a serious lack of legal protection for the parents, in particular, mothers who want to deliver their babies anonymously. Nor does the government provide an alternative way that is more beneficial than the baby box.

The real problem is the Special Adoption Act which requires the parents to meet certain requirements to send the babies for an adoption. Under the Act, both parents should consent to the adoption and they should register the babies with a seven day of waiting period. It is designed to help adoptive children trace their birth parents. However, he law makes it more difficult for the parents to leave their babies unanimously, and also makes it harder for the babies to be adopted by new parents due to the first registration under the first parents.

There are concerns towards the Baby Box. Since the babies cannot be registered immediately after birth, there is a higher risk of human trafficking. It is also argued that the Baby Box encourages people to abandon their unwanted child, and does not really stop infanticide which, in most cases, is done by parents with serious mental illness. Disconnection of the adoptees from the birth parents is another problem.

The Korean safe-haven for the abandoned babies might cause those detrimental results, but it certainly functions as an alternative to abortion or infanticide as the anonymity given by the Box is surely convincing to the parents not to harm their unwanted babies. Once a baby in dust was brought to the church after his father attempted to bury him alive, but failed as his mother could not stand it. Baby Box can save a life from this kind of events, at least on a temporary basis. The government should come up with a better idea of dealing with child abandonment to answer the urgent needs for saving the lives.


Mimi Shim (2016) How South Korea Can Help Abandoned Babies-And Their Parents. Times.
Opinion divided on the merits of South Korean pastor’s ‘baby box’ SBS News.
The ‘baby box’ for unwanted South Korean newborns. BBC (2015).

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