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Up to 2,200 are 'ghost children' whose births are not registered

Up to 2,200 are 'ghost children' whose births are not registered

Posted June. 23, 2023 08:12,   

Updated June. 23, 2023 08:12


Following a case in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, where a mother in her 30s killed two infants and abandoned them in a refrigerator, an additional case of abandonment by a single mother in her 20s was confirmed yesterday in Hwaseong. Both cases were made known by the Board of Audit and Inspection in investigating the whereabouts of 23 infants whose births were not registered and whose survival was unknown to the local government. Other regions, including Incheon and South Gyeongsang Province, are also investigating the survival of unreported newborns, so there may be more similar cases.

The “ghost children” whose births were left unknown were disclosed after a regular audit by the Board of Audit and Inspection of the Ministry of Health and Welfare. A comparison of vaccination data from 2015 to 2022 with birth registration records led to the discovery of 2236 infants and toddlers who were missing from the registration. In the meantime, the government didn't even know that the ghost children existed for eight years even though it had vowed to find cases that fell off the welfare net. The government has been concerned about the nation’s low birthrate while failing to protect precious lives properly.

"I sold my child via the Internet due to financial difficulties," the suspect in the case in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi Province said. The suspect in the Suwon refrigerator abandonment case initially said, "I handed over the child using Internet sources," but the police found the baby's body in the refrigerator through a search and seizure. As the 23 people whom the Board of Audit and Inspection requested to confirm‎ the whereabouts of this time are high-risk cases, the police must conduct a thorough investigation without ruling out extreme possibilities. The rest of the unregistered ghost babies must also be thoroughly investigated to confirm‎ their safety.

This case of infant murder and abandonment clearly shows how dangerous a situation can be if a birth is not registered. Without birth registration for newborns, insurance benefits cannot be received when using hospitals, and they are excluded from compulsory education. Even if they are abused or abandoned while being neglected at home, it is difficult to find out about them from the outside. And this is why there are close to 100 undocumented child abuse cases each year. In March of this year, a mother who left her daughter less than 100 days old to die was arrested. In 2021, there was also an incident in which the mother killed an eight-year-old unreported girl. Ghost babies do not appear in the world until they fall prey to a terrible crime.

Under current law, birth registration is required by parents. A bill to introduce a birth notification system that requires medical institutions to notify local governments of birth data is pending in the National Assembly. Even before the law is passed, a ghost child can be found by collecting fragmented data from the government, medical institutions, and local governments, such as vaccination records and childbirth data. Birth registration is the starting point for human rights protection. Before further damage occurs, the "right to be registered" must be returned to the children by collecting the records generated by newborn babies here and there.