What if one day your father or your husband leaves you without a single word? It definitely causes sadness, poverty, and makes it difficult for the rest of the family to maintain their standard of living. There are many Filipinos who suffer from poverty and sorrow due to the irresponsible conduct of some Korean men. The problem of Kopino is already considered serious in the Philippines. Most Koreans, however, do not even know what Kopino means. Therefore, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) introduces Kopino, the backgrounds of their existence, their effects on both countries, and ongoing efforts to help.
Who Is Kopino?
The term “Kopino” is a combination of the words “Korean” and “Filipino.” It represents mixed ethnicities who have a Korean father and a Filipino mother. They are also called “New Lai Daihan.” Lai Daihan also has a meaning of a person with mixed blood who was born to a Korean father and a Vietnamese mother during the Vietnam War. Currently, it is estimated that there are almost 30,000 Kopino children in the Philippines, including 1,500 in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. According to the statistics, most of their fathers are Korean men in their 20s who studied abroad in the Philippines or some elderly men who had visited the Philippines for business or tourism.
Backgrounds of Kopino
The number of students who go to the Philippines for language training increased rapidly since 2007 because of its cheaper price and lower educational expenses compared to other countries. According to the statistics, almost 40,000 Korean students board a plane bound for the Philippines for an educational purpose every year.
In fact, nine out of ten Kopino fathers were found to be students in their 20s, and this is why the Philippines have more half Koreans when compared to other Southeast Asian nations. Moreover, the number of Korean men who visit the Philippines with the purpose of tourism or overseas business trips has consistently increased. They often impregnate a Filipino woman through tourism called “Emperor Tourism.” It is a kind of sex tourism in which people go sightseeing with Filipino women in the daytime and have sex with them at night. The reason why sex tourism was developed in the Philippines is that the regulations on prostitution are relatively loose, and sexual labor is cheaper than other countries - including Korea. However, the most important cause of increasing Kopino is not prostitution, but some Korean men who deceived women by pretending to be sincere with their love and future. These men marry a Filipino woman and start a family. Because over 80 percent of people in the Philippines are Catholics who do not allow contraception and abortion, chances of having babies increase after having a wedding. This made the problem even more difficult to solve.
In regards to the human perception aspect, Koreans have a tendency to unconsciously believe that they are superior to Filipinos, especially after Korea achieved a high level of economic growth. This tendency of Koreans having a dismissive attitude toward the Philippines created hostility within the country, and sometimes it led to murder cases targeting Koreans. Another reason is that some Korean men associated with this problem have low morality and a false sense of human rights. Some of the Kopino fathers who started a family already had a family in Korea. Besides, they used Korean slangs for their private information when they registered their marriage in the Philippines. This is because they knew that the Filipino women could not understand their words, and there is no way to punish them even if their wives realize their fraud. A professor at Sungkyunkwan University Law School claimed that these men view females as the object of their pleasure instead of personal beings, and it is necessary for them to receive proper education.
Effects of Increasing Kopino
The Philippines Most Kopino mothers who had a baby from prostitution with a Korean man have social and economic difficulties. They undergo even severe economic hardships after their husband leaves because they have to bear the child rearing expenses alone. This leads them to go into prostitution again or inevitably abandon their children. Unlike the prejudice that most of them are prostitutes, 90 percent of Kopino mothers who met WLK, (We Love Kopino) which is a representative organization for helping Kopinos, are in fact, working moms or English teachers. They also end up with temporary jobs because it is not easy for them to keep their career and run the household at the same time.
For these reasons, Kopino children cannot receive a good education and eventually cannot find a way to escape from their mother’s poverty. Therefore, Filipino children who are confused about their identity due to bullying and the mothers are left in the country, and this causes a vicious cycle in the country’s economy. The situation is getting serious, and the Public Prosecutor General of the Philippines mentioned the necessity of bilateral cooperation to resolve the problem at a press conference in Korea.
Korean men who simply visited the Philippines for sex tourism were condemned as “ugly Koreans.” They irresponsibly returned to their home after having a wedding and starting a family with a Filipino woman by using a forged document or fake personal details. In addition, they abused the fact that these women were ignorant about the laws. Some Korean men required them to withdraw a suit by giving them a very small amount of money such as \50,000 every month. In the past, there was a social trend called the “Korean Dream” among Filipino women, which meant they could be better off by marrying a Korean man. However, this hope turned into disappointment and hatred feeling toward Korea since the same situation recurred throughout the country for years. The voices criticizing the Kopino problem started to appear around the world. In other words, the growing number of Kopino caused anti-Korean sentiments in the Philippines, worsened relations between the two countries, and lowered the reputation of Korea in the international community.
Movements to Help Kopino
According to Korea’s law, real parents should be responsible for the payment of child maintenance even though they had the baby through prostitution. This mandates that Kopino fathers be obliged to support their children if they are proved to be the real father after a paternity test. Moreover, domestic law specified that Koreans who are related to prostitution, regardless of the places where the criminal offense occurred, have to be imprisoned for a year or fined \3 million. Since the domestic law stated these points, the number of organizations that make an effort to help Kopino families is increasing every year.
“Kopinofather” is a website that helps to find Kopino fathers by uploading Korean men’s pictures and private information provided by their family. It only takes a role of connecting Korean men with Filipino women, and then deletes information when fathers show up. It is effective to announce current state of affairs since it reveals their information to the public. However, many people demanded the website to be closed for reasons of defamation, invasion of privacy, and violating portrait rights. Despite these difficulties, Bonchang Koo, the operator of the site, said that this is the problem between the children’s critical right to live and the father’s portrait right. He still runs the site through another country’s account because he values the child’s rights. He is also the representative of the previously mentioned organization “WLK (We Love Kopino),” which files a suit against Korean men instead of the Kopino family who suffers from poverty. It is hard to win the case due to the fact that it is international and deferred payment suit. Fortunately, the WLK won several lawsuits for child support last year.
Tacteen means “a clear view” in Korean. In other words, this organization promotes activities related to youth rights in order to make a bright future for Korea. They started to help Kopino after they heard their miserable stories during the project for international eradication of sexual exploitation of children. They tried to report actual condition of Kopino to people in 2012, but Korean society showed indifference to their efforts. This made them realize that the first step should be reminding people of the seriousness of the problem, so they conducted campaigns toward people and tourists on streets and at the airport. Consequently, they contributed to the arrangement of three Kopino fathers to take responsibility for the upbringing of five Kopino children.
The Korean Government
Many organizations have started to assist Kopino families. However, what they really need is continued support from the government. The Korean government has done nothing for Kopino up to this point, and some people argued that the government should follow the example of “Japino” in Japan. Japino, which is a combination of “Japan” and “Filipino,” is similar with Kopino. When the problem of Japino became serious in the past, the Japanese government provided living expenses to Filipino women and even the opportunity to receive education by giving rights to acquire Japanese citizenship. They also revised the Immigration Control Law to help them easily apply for a working visa as a part of the movement for finding the father of Japino. Therefore, the Korean government must admit its responsibilities for Kopino families and provide an institutional strategy for them to sustain a stable life.
It is disgraceful that some Korean men caused a grave international problem such as “Kopino,” especially against the Filipino women who are living in poverty and could not identify the men’s private information. As the problem became serious, suits for child rearing expenses against Korean men have increased. However, Korea has not offered a solution like other voluntary organizations. Korean men who were presumed as Kopino fathers rather claimed their portrait rights, and the Korean government took the side of these men. It is important that the Korean government realizes that the rights of the Kopino family are as much important as Korean men’s portrait rights and starts to make an effort for helping Kopino families.
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