Topics in East Asia

Monday, January 02, 2006

Why do South Korean mothers give birth overseas?

It seems that Korean mothers want to give babies other country's nationality.....
Don't South Koreans like their country?

Quotaion from http://www.asianpacificpost.com/news/article/192.html

New Zealand acts to stop passport babies while Canada dithers

Sep 9, 2004

New Zealand is moving to deny automatic citizenship to all babies born to non-residents in the country — a move that Canada has said is not necessary at this stage.

Internal Affairs Minister George Hawkins said the Government intends to amend the Identity (Citizenship and Travel Documents) Bill, currently being considered by a parliamentary committee, to cancel automatic citizenship for babies.

Hawkins could provide no figures to back the proposed amendment but said it was a “substantial number and it varies from year to year“.

“But basically a number of people do come. New Zealand is an attractive place to have your child have citizenship rights for,“ he told National Radio.

“It provides a free education, medical services better than many of the countries people have come from. In the end, of course, it puts more burden on New Zealanders.“

The bill also extends the amount of time permanent residents have to wait to become citizens and makes passports valid for five years instead of 10, because of increasing international passport and citizenship fraud.

The Asian Pacific Post in an exclusive report published June 3 showed that a similar trend involving so called “passport babies“ was occurring in Canada.

Our story showed how pregnant Korean mothers were flying to the west coast in organized “birth tours“ to deliver their children at local hospitals.

The babies become instant citizens and travel home within weeks on Canadian papers.

For the boys, Canadian citizenship means they can avoid mandatory military duty in their homeland.

For the girls, it is mainly about getting to study overseas without having to pay high foreign student fees. For their parents, it is a foothold in North America.

The Asian Pacific Post story quoted Coquitlam businessman Wohn Su-hyeon, a birth-tour agent, who had placed ads in Seoul seeking pregnant women who were interested in having their babies in Canada.

For $22,000 Wohn and his travel agent partner in Seoul were promising pregnant mothers medical check-ups, delivery at a Vancouver area hospital, two months of postnatal care, a return flight, a local guide providing services ranging from airport pickup to getting the baby‘s birth certificate, social insurance number and eventually Canadian citizenship.

According to Wohn who runs Granville Health centre out of his Thompson St. home in Coquitlam there are at least five other companies in the Lower Mainland catering to expectant Korean mothers who want to give birth here. In Korea, he estimates there are at least 10, who like him are publicly promoting birth tours.

The Korea Times recently estimated that the number of Korean mothers who take the distressful and expensive tours to foreign countries to deliver their babies is expected to increase to more than 7,000 this year, an increase of more than 100 percent from 3,000 in 2001.

Following the story, which was picked up by national media, Immigration Canada said the situation is not alarming enough nor the numbers high enough for it to move to plug the loophole.

Spoksperson Maria Iadinardi said there is no indication of high numbers of Korean women coming to Canada to deliver babies in so-called arranged birth tours.

quotation from http://www.asianpacificpost.com/news/article/131.html

Passport babies delivered in B.C. for $22,000

Jun 3, 2004

Korean mothers want
Korean mothers want "born in Canada" babies
"You are thinking ahead, preparing for your child 20 years later. You are paying $20,000 now. But if you were to send your child overseas to study or to local foreign schools, the cost would be about 10 times greater. You are saving at least 150 million won (C$175,000) for your child." "Wohn Su-hyeon, Coquitlam businessman who runs "birth tours" for pregnant Korean mothers wanting to deliver their babies in the Lower Mainland.

It did not take long for Coquitlam businessman Wohn Su-hyeon to get the response he was looking for.

The bold newspaper ad two weeks ago in Seoul seeking pregnant women who were interested in having their babies in Canada got more than 10 responses within a few days of its publication.

Wohn and his travel agent partner in Seoul were promising pregnant mothers medical check-ups, delivery at a Vancouver area hospital, two months of postnatal care, a return flight, a local guide providing services ranging from airport pickup to getting the baby‘s birth certificate, social insurance number and eventually Canadian citizenship.

The cost was $22,000 or 19 million Korean won.

Wohn, who runs Granville Health centre out of his Thompson St. home in Coquitlam is a “birth tour“ agent, one of many who are cashing in on the desire by Korean parents to have their babies in Canada to secure them a future.

But unlike many who operate discreetly through Korean Internet sites or by word of mouth, Wohn says he has nothing to hide.

“My company is Granville Health,“ he told The Asian Pacific Post in halting English.

According to him there are at least five other companies in the Lower Mainland catering to expectant Korean mothers who want to give birth here. In Korea, he estimates there are at least 10, who like him are publicly promoting birth tours.

“Depending on the client they stay at motels or if they have relatives they can stay with them,“ said the landed immigrant from Korea.

“Sometimes we use the local hospital and sometimes private centres,“ said Wohn, whose company is about a year old.

In an earlier interview Wohn said many Korean parents believe they are actually saving money by going overseas.

“You are thinking ahead, preparing for your child 20 years later..You are paying $20,000 now. But if you were to send your child overseas to study or to local foreign schools, the cost would be about 10 times greater. You are saving at least 150 million won (C$175,000) for your child.“

Wohn says there were more than10 inquiries since his ad in Seoul went out last week, and the callers were mostly in their late 20s and early 30s. Only one out of 10 people, he said, voiced concern about the cost, even though their medical fee needs to be paid in cash before the trip.

Lower Mainland hospital officials when contacted by The Asian Pacific Post expressed surprise at hearing about Korean “birth tours“

Marisa Nichini, spokesperson for the B.C. Women‘s Hospital & Health Centre said her facility like others charge people who are not B.C. residents.

The fee for a non-complicated vaginal birth at B.C. Women‘s Hospital is $1,000, for a cesarean-section delivery it is $2,000 and then a per diem rate is charged for the mother ($2,500) and for the newborn rooming in with the mother ($1,000).

“I‘ve checked with our birthing program staff and there isn‘t any anecdotal evidence that we‘re seeing an influx of non-BC resident, Korean women,“ said Nichini. But then she said they don‘t check for country of origin or ask for passports.

She said that all of the birthing rooms at her hospital are assigned based on medical necessity and priority.

“We do not reserve rooms for people who are non-BC residents,“ said Nichini.

The Korea Times recently estimated that the number of Korean mothers who take the distressful and expensive tours to foreign countries to deliver their babies is expected to increase to more than 7,000 this year – an increase of more than 100 percent from 3,000 in 2001.

Park Soo Mee, a Korean journalist, who researched birth-tours for a recent article in the Joong-Ang Daily newspaper says the phenomenon is also expanding to Taiwan and Hong Kong.

In the case of Koreans, Canada is a preferred destination mainly because you do not need a visa when coming in as a tourist. Other favoured destinations include New Zealand, Hawaii and Guam

In a telephone interview from Seoul, Park told The Asian Pacific Post that many women are now openly discussing birth tours to Canada on Korean websites and even setting up support clubs.

In addition, there is an expanding network of Korean expatriates abroad that caters to young mothers in Korea, including immigration lawyers and obstetricians.

Canada does not see birth tours as illegal, even though the purpose stated at entry point is tourism. Others say they are attending short-term language courses to enter the country.

Like the United States, Canada grants citizenship to anyone born on its soil. Britain and Australia repealed similar laws in the 1980s.

“Previously, such birth tours were prevalent only among the people with high income, such as doctors and lawyers, or those who are privileged enough to provide their children with U.S. citizenship. But now it has become so popular that anyone with enough money is willing to make the trip,“ Kim Sung-hoon, a representative at a Korean travel agency specializing in birth tours told the Korea Times.

Kim argued anyone and everyone would want to give their children such opportunity if only they had the means and money.

“It is the mandatory military service system in the country that compels these parents to resort such tours to give their children foreign citizenship. But more importantly, it is about education,“ Kim said.

Oh Si-yoon, a representative of Anemom, a Busan agent for a post-natal care based in Vancouver, agreed the numbers are going up.

“The demand seems to be increasing,“ Oh was quoted as saying in a recent Korean article.

“But a growing number of mothers are finding their own ways to arrange the trip for themselves through friends or relatives, which would make it even harder to know how many go.“

South Korean-run Hana was among the first to cash in on this trend.

It has three centers for expectant mothers in the Los Angeles area and has opened an elegantly furnished postnatal facility called Larchmont Villa, in L.A.‘s Koreatown, where women can stay until it is time to fly home. Their services include such conveniences as a private car for pickup at the airport and a guide to help get the baby a Social Security number and passport.

They deliver about five Korean babies in the Los Angeles facility a month for between US$20,000 to US$30,000.

While the demand for birth tours is burgeoning, the industry has a dark side.

Last September, Korean police launched an investigation into the so-called “birth tours“ industry, which involved doctors suspected of illegally identifying the sex of the fetus for expectant mothers prior to their trips overseas.

Sodaemun Police in central Seoul said they had secured testimonies from two women, who had been on birth tours, that they had their unborn child‘s sex identified by a doctor before departure.

While there is no law that expressly prohibits organizing or partaking in birth tours, it is however, illegal for any medical personnel in Korea to identify the sex of a fetus.

This law was originally passed to prevent parents, who generally prefer male children, from seeking an abortion on discovering their unborn child is a girl.

“Because birth tours are aimed at dodging military service, many females may try to identify the sex of their fetus before leaving the country,“ a Seoul police official told reporters.

In another attempt to clampdown on the birth tour industry, Korean prosecutors have also targeted at least four travel agents for establishing illegal travel agencies without the required license from Korea‘s Culture and Tourism Ministry.

The travel agents, local media said, are suspected of arranging birth tours for 50 pregnant women who paid US$17,000 each.

In California, last year, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, trying to plug the loophole detained six Korean mothers who had just given birth to their children.

These and other cases have triggered a raging controversy on birth tours in Korea where many decry such trips saying it will lead to the military being stocked with only the sons of the poor and add to nation‘s social inequality.

“The government must publicize their names as they are to blame for selfishly wasting tens of millions of won abroad, while there are less privileged people in this country who kill themselves over just a few thousand won,“ a person wrote on Chong Wa Dae Internet message board.

A mother of two Korean-born children in Chonan, South Chungchong Province was quoted as saying: “A son of an ordinary man is expected to study in Korea and take an examination to enter a college.

Then he is expected to serve two years and two months in the military for a pay of 10,000 won (C$12) a month..all this only because he doesn‘t have enough money to send his pregnant wife overseas.“

Journalist Park Soo Mee said while many feel that having babies abroad erodes Korea‘s national integrity and is considered something of a betrayal, there is an increasing number of people who are openly supporting birth tours as matter of choice.

She quoted Park Hwa-seo, a professor of migration studies at Myungji University in Seoul, who sees birth tours as a sign of globalization, based on the idea that citizenship should exceed the meaning of ethnic belonging.

“But it should become more of an exchange, unlike now where we pour cash into their bags,“ she says. “It could get problematic when birth tours start to form an industry.

They could also bring social insecurity, giving a false impression that American or Canadian citizenships are more superior than Korean.“

But even among those who don‘t go on birth tours, many seem to understand how Korea‘s problems would lead parents to have their children overseas.

“The whole system makes you question how your life is going to be after 40,“ writes a father who says he supports birth tours, at I-mom Club, a Web site for parents.

“The unemployment rate is getting higher, retirement age is getting younger, and the economy is getting worse.

“Call me a traitor,“ he says.

“But you shouldn‘t criticize people who are making choices about their own future.“

Choi Jong-mi, has no regrets having her baby abroad, saying it was all about the choice she made for her child.

“People may point fingers at me,“ she wrote recently on a community website at Daum, an online portal. “But I have no regrets for giving birth to my child the way I wanted it. That‘s the way I have lived, and I‘ll continue to live that way with anything concerning my family.“

Choi, who speaks very little English, recently had her first child in a Los Angeles hospital, her first trip to the United States. The trip was part of her overseas “birth tour“.

The procedure cost Choi a little over US$11,000 for a two-month stay, she says. Other women belonging to the community site have said they have spent double that.

Unlike many of those who take the “birth tour,“ Choi said her husband makes only a modest income at a small firm.

“My husband was very supportive, but he said he could only pay US$10,000,“ she said. “Right away, I knew that wasn‘t going to be enough. But I told him that it would.“

To cut costs, Choi, who had no relatives in the United States stayed with her mother‘s friend until her delivery date.

She said she received four medical check-ups from a Korean doctor in Los Angeles and counted every penny to pay for her medical bills.

She saide she didn‘t buy medical insurance in the United States either, which would have covered her fee in case she had needed a Caesarian section or emergency help for her or her child.

Choi said the trip was for a “future investment,” which will allow her daughter to receive a North American education for less money than if she were a Korean citizen.

In the long run, she says her family plans to move permanently to Los Angeles.

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