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Child abuse: what makes good stepmothers sad

Posted November. 01, 2013 08:18,   


Stepmothers are always wicked in fairytales. Patji’s mother in “Kongji and Patji,” a Korean traditional tale, and Cinderella’s stepmother give their own daughters nice party gowns and brought them to a party while making their stepdaughter to the chores. Lady Heo in the tale of “Janghwa and Hongryeon” falsely accused one stepdaughter of abortion to kill herself, and made the other step daughter to commit suicide.

In fact, two sisters called Baek Pil-lang and Baek Pil-ae actually committed suicide in Gangjin, South Jeolla Province, in 1768. Lady Na was punished in the end because people believed she abused the two stepdaughters. Jeong Yak-yong, a secret inspector during the Joseon Dynasty, had a different view after learning the case in 1801. He said, “There is a problem with the prejudice that all stepmothers abuse their step children.” There are more than 500 Cinderella-like tales. Some say that stepmothers represent a different nature of mothers in that they are mean but lead their daughter to overcome challenges and become mature.

The stepmother who abused her eight-year-old child to die is not the case, however. The second grader in Ulsan who died on last Thursday was about to go on a school picnic. The stepmother beat her, saying that she tells her a lie even after stealing two dollars. The autopsy result found that she had 16 broken ribs out of 24. Another eight-year old boy who died in Seoul two months ago was beaten to death for not asking his stepmother who returned from a hospital if she was fine. His father and stepmother beat their child often with a massage machine and golf clubs.

Statistically, much more fathers abuse their child than stepmothers. A 2002 survey by a child care facility showed that 47.1 percent of 6,403 child abuse cases were done by fathers, 32.6 percent by mothers, 2.4 percent by stepmothers, and 1.2 percent by stepfathers. The recent cases would sadden many nice stepmothers who are trying to win the hearts and minds of their step children as the number of remarriage cases increases. Other mothers in the neighborhood of the victim in Ulsan cried and said angrily, “Think how many years she had suffered…” “Her leg was broken.” Undeserving adults must be punished. Child abuse reporting number is 1577-1391.

Editorial Writer Kim Sun-deok (yuri@donga.com)