Kopino Business

“Kopino business” is the subject of PD Notebook, an investigative journalism show on MBC, a few weeks ago. The broadcast is every Tuesday night after the Mon-Tue drama. I don’t usually watch the show but the topic is about “Kopino” ~ which means a child out-of-wedlock of a Korean and a Filipino. They have been abandoned by their fathers in the Philippines ~ either because the father never knew about their existence OR because of a legal family back in Korea (or they’re just total A*******). Some have mothers who worked in the flesh trade while others have mothers who had relationships with their Korean fathers.

The documentary presented the “Kopino Business” in three parts. First, it discussed the alleged gang rape of a Filipino by 8 Koreans and sex tourism in the Philippines. Second is the plight of Kopino children and how their mothers are struggling to receive child support for them. Third is how organizations are taking advantage of the Kopino children.

Last June, a Filipina who is a single mom accused eight Koreans of gang rape. The alleged incident happened in Angeles City, my hometown. As far as I can remember, Koreans started building their community after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. The buildings along Friendship Hi-way were virtually abandoned and sold at bargain prices during that time. From Friendship Hi-way, they expand their businesses to Malabanias Rd and Fields Avenue. The last time I was in Angeles City was in 2008 and I was shocked at the number of Koreans in the city.

Advertising sex tourism in the Philippines ~
Advertising sex tourism in the Philippines ~

Sex tourism in Angeles City has existed long before the Korean communities sprouted. Fields Avenue now known as “The Walking Street” is where the clubs are mostly located. Back in the 1980s, they were mostly filled with American soldiers and Europeans. They are now filled with patrons from different countries in Europe and Asia.

When news report of the alleged rape came out, Filipino netizens were infuriated. The Korean Embassy and the Korean associations conducted their own investigation. Witnesses surfaced and CCTV footage were examined. In the end, it was concluded that no rape happened and that the single-mom cried foul to extort money from the eight Koreans.

The documentary seems to show that some Kopino kids are products of sex tourism. They even interviewed one woman who has three Kopino kids from three different men. She said she knows the father of her first child, but not her two other children. She met the fathers while she was working as a GRO. She brought the reporter to other houses in her village. Apparently, there are about 20 Kopino kids living in their area and most of the moms are GRO.

Two of the women who are in the show were once legally married to Koreans. They went back home to the Philippines for one reason or another (I don’t remember if they were mentioned. I asked my husband but he couldn’t remember either.) Their children were forgotten by their fathers and are now looking for a way to reconnect for the sake of their children.

Most of the Kopino children in the show are in financial difficulty. Some live in slums and cannot afford to attend schools. If they were in Korea, they could be entitled to some support by the government. Since the children are not recognized by their fathers in Korea, they do not receive any financial support from the Korean government. They are also not given Korean citizenship. Their only hope for now are the non-governmental organizations and the Korean family court which has granted paternity and child support to Kopino kids last year and early this year.

Help for child support?
Help for child support?

The Kopino Children Association, Inc is founded by Mr. Cedric Son. He is the one who coined the term “kopino” to represent a child of Korean and Filipino parents. Generally the term “kopino” is used to refer to Korean-Filipino kids abandoned by their fathers. When the paternity case was granted to the Filipino mother who sued, Mr. Cedric Son opined that suing the Korean father could have a negative impact in his recognition of the Kopino child. His message is posted on the Kopino Facebook page ~ Mr. Son’s reaction on the landmark ruling of the paternity suit. Many might not agree with Mr. Son’s thoughts at once but I believe his heart is for the Kopino children. He and his wife has been helping the kids for so many years.

It is estimated that there are about 30,000 Kopino children in the Philippines. And with the awareness in Korean society of their number and the positive ruling on the paternity suit and child support cases come the vultures ready to take advantage of the children’s plight. This is the reason why the documentary is entitled “Kopino Business”.

The “Kopino business” has drawn interest from foundations claiming to help Kopino children. They solicit money from generous Korean companies and private individuals. They pretend to spend the collected money on the educational expense and welfare of these children. The problem is they don’t really support Kopino children. They would hold one-time event for photo-ops with Kopino children. The photos are used in the foundation’s website to attract donations.

Kopino foundation with no kopino!
Kopino foundation with no kopino!

Consulting firms and law offices are also interested in the business of “Kopino”. They approach mothers of Kopino children who want to file cases for child support against the Korean fathers. The mothers are promised legal aid as they are urged to sign a document without explaining its content. One mother brought a copy of the document and in it there is a provision that says the lawyer or law firm is entitled to 50% of the amount the court shall grant and they are not to pursue the same case again. There are mothers who are enticed to sign as they feel there is no other way that they could get child support. Last month, the court granted child support in two cases.

kopino-business-3

kopino-business-4

The issue of abandoned children by their Korean fathers is an embarrassment to the society. It presents how a few (?) Korean men could be so adulterous and irresponsible to engage in unprotected sex when they are legally attached (one of the women interviewed said that even if she had sex with other men it was only the Korean who didn’t use a condom!) It also shows how a few (?) are unwilling to face the “consequence” of their actions by not providing support.

The mothers are equally to blame for the plight of the Kopino children ~ on their status as illegitimate children. Working as GROs, they should know how to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancy. Same case if they were in a relationship with the man ~ hopefully, this situation would serve as a reminder to women out there to be more responsible about themselves. Treat promises as promises that could be broken any time ~

As for the Kopino kids, I hope they study hard and not let their situation be a hindrance in their lives. Instead, they should think of their situation as an inspiration to strive for their dreams. I have a friend back home in the Philippines. He and his sister were abandoned by their American father. With the help of the Pearl S. Buck Foundation, he was able to finish his studies and land his dream job. When we were in college, he said he never really missed his father ~ he was well loved by his uncles and his mom took care of them as well as she could.

Should the Korean government help Kopino children? What sort of support should they give? This reminds me of the issue of Amerasian back in the days when the US government had military bases in the Philippines.

*Screencaps from PD Notebook, MBC

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