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Parents Desperately Seeking Their Missing Children

Posted June. 05, 2003 21:48,   


“Wish this will be the last time we do this. This time we can find Do-yeon.”

At the Korea Welfare Foundation`s conference room in Mugyo-dong, Seoul in the afternoon of June 5, a list of 3,885 names of missing children presently staying at child care centers nationwide was opened.

51-year-old Kim Sam-mok and 42-year-old Park In-sook were looking at the photos and descriptions of children one by one. The couple took a day off and came to Seoul from Masan in an early morning train.

It was on January 29 in 2001 when the couple found their son Do-yeon, who is mentally retard and is now 19 year old, missing. Since then, they have gone through a living hell, not knowing whereabouts of their son who hardly speaks his own name. “I never imagined before that life could be this hard…,” Kim said with tears in her eyes.

The day`s event came as the Ministry of Health and Welfare decided to collect and open information about children held at both authorized and unauthorized child care facilities nationwide. This is the second time that the information about missing children was opened to the public since the police agency opened information about some 800 children. At that time, however, no family was able to find their missing child.

The room was crowded with parents desperately looking for their missing children.

47-year-old Byun Young-ho, who lost his then six-year-old daughter Yu-jeong in 1997, was taking a close look at each photo, worrying, “After six years, her face must have changed a lot.”

Byun and his wife, as working parents, had to ask Byun`s parents living in South Cholla Province to take care of their little daughter. On April 4 in 1997, while her grandmother was away for a short time, Yu-jeong, who was taking a nap at that time, just disappeared.

Since then, Byun traveled every corner of the country, sending letters and photos to childcare facilities and posting photos of his daughter at every highway rest spot. The grandmother, feeling guilty about what has happened, suffered from sometimes dementia and depression.

44-year-old Lee Ja-woo, who lost her then eight-month-old daughter Han So-hee on May 18 1989, was wiping tears as she looked at the photos in the room. A woman in her early 30s and speaking Gyeongsang Province dialect visited her house and kidnapped the little baby while Lee went to kitchen.

After that, Lee developed a heart disease and has not been able to leave the city, hoping she would have her daughter back one day. It has been 15 years, but Lee said she would be able to recognize her daughter`s face at first sight.

“My heart starts beating fast whenever I hear magpies crow (magpies are considered messengers of good news in Korea). These days, I often hear magpies crow. There must be good news coming,” Lee wore a faint smile on her tear-socked face.

“We believe that there are many of missing children staying at mental institutions or facilities for disabled children, but it is almost impossible to gain access,” said Na Joo-bong, head of the Civic Campaign for Finding Missing Children, as he looked at description cards with parents. “The government must set a mandatory provision for those facilities to disclose information about children they hold, and form a separate unit to deal with missing childe cases.”

Parents can visit the office of KWF (tel. 02-777-0182) and see description cards. The foundation plans to continue collecting information about missing children and soon open a Web site for online references.

Hyo-Lim Son aryssong@donga.com