Why I gave up my baby

In South Korea being an unmarried mother is considered shameful, so many young women feel unable to bring up their children. But there is a stigma associated with adoption too. As a result, large numbers of these children will never be adopted.

A woman in her mid-30s, Jiyoun, explained to the BBC's Yalda Hakim why she had taken the heartbreaking decision to give up her baby - a decision that almost drove her to suicide. Her family still know nothing about the child.

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A recent change in the law in South Korea requires all births to be registered - which also means the birth will be recorded on the mother's papers, and may be seen by potential employers.

Some women are so determined to avoid being identified as unmarried mothers that they give birth in secret and abandon the children. Pastor Jong-Rak Lee at the Jusarang Community Church on the outskirts of Seoul has set up a baby box that allows mothers - who feel they have nowhere else to turn - to do this safely and anonymously.

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Talking openly about sex is also taboo in South Korea, and sex education in schools is limited, so many young people know very little about contraception.

One teenager, Suji, became pregnant the first time she had sex. Having hidden this from everyone but her mother, she now faces a dilemma about what to do with her child.

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The government provides some help to single mothers, but not enough to live on. Un-Hang Shin, head of Korean Adoption Services, a government agency, says more needs to be done to help them. "It's not easy to change our attitudes. There is social stigma on unwed mothers and their children, but if the government provides some assistance to the family, I think social attitudes would change," he says.

In the past, many unwanted children were adopted by foreigners - often Americans - but the law was changed to make this harder. Many Koreans are still reluctant to adopt, though, so thousands of children will remain in orphanages until they are 18. One adoptive parent who decided to ignore the social pressure, Sook-Hwa Kim, talked to Yalda Hakim about her choice - while her adopted daughter Sung Eun described the reaction she gets from classmates.

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The names Jiyoun and Suji have been changed to protect the women's privacy.

Watch the full programme Our World: South Korea's Adoption Shame on BBC World News and the BBC News Channel on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 October 2015. Transmission times can be found on the BBC World News and BBC News Channel websites- viewers in the UK can also watch the programme on the News Channel website after transmission. (Reporter Yalda Hakim, producer/directorVara Szajkowski.)

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