Go to contents

Mom is a Patriot, Not an Alien

Posted May. 28, 2005 03:23,   


It is 11:00 p.m. at “Jeonju restaurant” in the Dongseo market of Jegi-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, on May 26.

After entering the restaurant attached to a house with three rooms, the air was filled with the sounds of children laughing, crying, and talking.

Children`s parents are the busiest around this time, unlike other parents who would be calm as they prepared to go to bed.

The parents at this restaurant said, “It’s well past 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. once we close the restaurant, wash the children, and prepare the school materials for the children in their primary schools. Only recently has it become a little easier with the help of the eldest son and daughter.”

There are nine children, including Bo-ra(17), Jina(14), Jin-hwan(12), Seok-woo(10), Hwi-ho(9), Se-bin(8), David(7), Se-mi(5), and So-ra(4) between the eldest son, Kyung-han(18), and the youngest son, Ddolddori, who had his first anniversary of his birth this past January.

In total, there are six sons, including Ddolddori who hasn’t yet been given a name and so he has not been registered, and five daughters. The parents got married in 1987 when they were both 22 years old.

The wife remarked, “It was hard when I had just one or two children because I tried to raise them by the textbook. But, now that I bring up 11 children, it’s less arduous as I came to have my own know-how in children’s education, and give up what I have no choice to do otherwise.”

Although the couples are sincere Christians, bearing this many children has not been due to their religious beliefs.

Mrs. Lee said that though the people around her, including her parents, encouraged her to stop having more children, she bore and has raised all of her children, for she has a confidence to better raise them than anybody else.

All 11 children have grown up bright and healthy, as if they know their parents’ minds for them, despite their hard work at the restaurant.

Although Hwi-ho, the sixth child, is showing symptoms of a developmental disorder, fortunately, he is improving.

The couple believes that the reason behind Hwi-ho’s remarkable improvement to the point where he can attend a regular school rather than a school for the disabled is largely attributable to his siblings’ help.

They noted, “It’s quite hard for a child with a developmental disorder to readily improve when the child has just one sibling, or none at all. But in our home, even if each of the family members speaks to Hwi-ho, it becomes 12 family members’ words. Hwi-ho, who wasn’t willing to talk to anyone in his family, has finally opened his mind upon spending much time with his many family members.”

Mr. Nam is a devoted husband, who not only assumes the work of the restaurant, but also the housework and the bathing of the children. Mr. Nam said, “I sometimes feel troubled when our family can’t afford to go on a picnic together, or when people wouldn’t rent a house just because we have many children,” and added that nevertheless, when his children approach him as a group and do cute things, saying ‘father,’ he easily forgets such negative thoughts.

On May 27, Nam’s family had a special outing. The Seoul City arranged an event, in which it invited a total of 36 households of families with more than five children and let them talk about their family stories.

Nam attended the event with nine of his children, excluding two children who attend junior high school and high school, and his wife, who was working at the restaurant.

Nam stated, “Whenever I told others that I have 11 children, people treated me as an alien, but now I feel I have become a patriot, not an alien, in this low birth-rate era.”

Nam added that he is now worried about the education cost in the years to come, and that he hopes that the government will more strongly support “families with multiple children” from the point of view that the government should invest for the future.

Soo-Jung Shin crystal@donga.com