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[Editorial] Responsibility for Kopinos

Local court ruling has significant implications

A recent ruling by a local court that confirmed a Korean man was the father of two half Filipino children may have vexing implications for other Korean men with a similar story. The court found that he was the biological father of the children, whom he had with a Filipino woman in the Philippines and severed contact with after returning home a decade ago. One can expect that many Kopinos ― children of mixed Korean and Philippine parentage ― will follow suit in the years to come.

The ruling was the first time that Kopino children raised by a Filipino mother had won a paternity suit here. If upheld by the top court, it will enable the mother to demand child support from the Korean father.

The court ruling has renewed criticism for the irresponsible attitude of many Korean men, who fathered children in the Philippines only to desert their parental obligations. Local websites are now flooded with postings that express embarrassment and hopes that all Kopinos would be able to find their fathers.

The Kopino population has increased continuously in recent years, with Koreans accounting for nearly a quarter of the 4.7 million foreign visitors to the Philippines last year, outnumbering all other nationalities. There is no official tally on the number of Kopinos, but the figure is estimated to reach up to 30,000.

It is deplorable that most Kopino children have been abandoned by their Korean fathers, who leave their Filipino mothers unable to afford to take care of them. Some Korean men may send back money for support, but their cases seem to be exceptional.

The issue of abandoned Kopinos should now be addressed in an earnest and serious manner so that it will not continue to embarrass the Korean people and damage the image of Korea.

What should be first emphasized is that Korean men ― if not all of them ― must change their two-faced, immoral and even cowardly attitudes typified by the recent paternity suit.

The father, who is married with children here, went to the Philippines alone in 1997 to run a businesses and lived with the Filipin woman, fathering two boys with her. He abruptly returned home and severed contact with them in 2004. The mother came to Korea and filed a lawsuit on behalf of the children with help from a lawyer she met through a local support center for immigrant wives in 2012. The father had refused to take a DNA test until ordered to do so by the court, expressing worry about the possible break-up of his family here.

The man should not have started a family with the Filipin woman if he was really committed to his family back home. A combination of this hypocritical attitude and distorted sexual desire is shared by many other Koreans who fathered children in the Philippines, whether they are businessmen, tourists or students.

It is anticipated that the recent court ruling may serve to make Korean men more cautious and responsible. But what should be taken more seriously than the legal pressure is the criticism that their behavior undermines the complaint that Korean women were sexually enslaved or exploited during Japan’s colonial rule and in the early stage of the country’s industrialization.

Given that the eventual goal is ensuring a better future for Kopino children, not just tracking down their biological fathers, measures should be implemented to provide more effective and substantive support for them. In addition to offering more money to private aid groups, it will be necessary to make it easier for Kopinos to get visas to work and live here, or get employment at Korean companies operating in the Philippines. Ultimately, Korean society as a whole should be ready to accept and treat them without discrimination.