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Couple offers support for single foreign parents

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Cheong Jong-won, a pastor, and his wife Kim Sung-eun visit a woman and her baby at her home in Seoul in this March 2018 photo. Courtesy of Light and Salt
Cheong Jong-won, a pastor, and his wife Kim Sung-eun visit a woman and her baby at her home in Seoul in this March 2018 photo. Courtesy of Light and Salt

By Lee Hyo-jin

Being a single parent is not easy in Korea, but it is especially tough for people of foreign nationality. On top of the burden of having to raise and educate their children on their own, they face hurdles due to social prejudice against foreigners and single parents.

"Framily," a social cooperative established by Cheong Jong-won, a pastor, and his wife Kim Sung-eun, encourages such parents to stand on their own feet by giving economic and emotional support as well as caring for their children.

"We launched the organization in 2016, with an aim to become a friend and family for single foreign parents who are raising their child alone after divorcing, or the death of, their spouse," Cheong told The Korea Times.

The couple also run a Vietnamese cafe "Mom's Apron," offering job opportunities for migrant women who are raising their children on their own.

Located in a residential area in Gangbuk District, northern Seoul, the small but cozy cafe offers a variety of Vietnamese dishes, including bahn mi (Vietnamese baguette sandwich), bun cha (noodles with grilled pork) and spring rolls, served with handmade tea.

Cheong Jong-won sits in front of the cafe 'Mom's Apron' located in Gangbuk District, northern Seoul. Courtesy of Cheong Jong-won
Cheong Jong-won sits in front of the cafe 'Mom's Apron' located in Gangbuk District, northern Seoul. Courtesy of Cheong Jong-won
"When we opened the cafe last December, we only had beverages on the menu. But we began to serve Vietnamese food as our chef, a single mother from Vietnam, has fabulous cooking skills," said Cheong. "We currently have two employees both from Vietnam. Another migrant woman, also a single parent, will be joining us from August."

"Although we can't offer big payments to our employees, they are satisfied because the work schedule allows them to spend more time with their children, unlike when they used to work nearly 12 hours a day in factories."

The couple's support and care for multicultural families dates back to 2009 when Kim was a social worker at a state-run migrant support center in Seoul.

"We noticed that migrant women suffering from domestic violence or those going through divorce were in need of urgent help. But within the government program, it was difficult to give tailored support specifically for them."

Support programs for migrant women at government centers are usually limited to Korean language, cooking and culture classes to help them adapt to Korean society. Therefore, these women, who encounter various difficulties during and after marriage, can't seek help at such centers, explained Cheong.

For this reason, the couple decided to create their own organization.

"In the case of migrant women, the most common reason for divorce is domestic violence, which leaves them with depression after their marriage ends. We try to give them emotional support by inviting them into our community for casual gatherings and trips, which gives them the feeling that they are not alone."

In addition to bringing energy into their lives, Cheong and Kim help single foreign parents by providing childcare services. Children who are left alone at home while their parents are at work are invited to attend "weekend school," Saturdays, where they can engage in various recreational activities.

Members of
Members of "Framily" hold a birthday party in this December 2018 photo. Courtesy of Cheong Jong-won

Cheong noted that "Framily" operates without any support from the government, only with donations from supporters, in order to give aid to all migrants, regardless of their legal status.

"Our programs are also open to undocumented migrants and their children. But if we begin to receive government funds, we might not be able to help them anymore," he explained.


Lee Hyo-jin lhj@koreatimes.co.kr


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