'Baby Box' a Safe Haven for S. Korea's Abandoned

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Hundreds of unwanted babies are abandoned on the streets of Seoul, South Korea, every year.

Many of them don't survive, but Rev. Jong-rak Lee of Jesus-Loving Union Church has set up a way for saving some of these unwanted babies.

Outside his church in Seoul a sign says "Place to leave babies."

A "baby box" is there with a thick towel covering the bottom, and lights and heating to keep a baby comfortable.

A bell rings when someone puts a baby in the box. Then a helper comes to immediately move the baby inside.

This past year, six infants and small children were rescued at Lee's church.

Many of them are physically or mentally handicapped, or babies from unmarried mothers who can't care for their children.

"His skull is not shaped right," Lee pointed out about one child. "This note says that, 'He has this handicap, I am so sorry, but I am not able to raise this baby. So I put him safely in the baby box of Jesus-Loving Union Church."

Official reports say about 600 infants or young children are abandoned in the streets every year, but the number is probably higher.

Only about 20 percent of abandoned infants or children are rescued and placed temporarily in juvenile protection centers.

And the numbers of infant deaths and abandoned children are bound to get worse as the rate of children born to single mothers increases.

Government efforts have not kept up with the need, which is why Christian professionals developed the baby box.

"Obviously it's best for the parents themselves to raise their children, but when the country does not perform its function in this situation, it is important to save the lives of babies first," obstetrician Dr. Sang-Duk Sim said.

Rev. Lee first introduced the idea of the baby box in Korea as a temporary solution to keep abandoned babies alive.

"There is no reason for the baby box to exist if the government takes care of the children's safety, and making them happy," he said.

"[The] baby box should go, but right now there is only inaction and lack of concern."

Today the baby box embraces abandoned infants and young children because they're handicapped and poor.

Still, Lee hopes that better social services for parents and their special needs babies will someday make the baby box unnecessary.

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Heather Sells

Heather Sells

CBN News Reporter

Heather Sells enjoys reporting on a variety of issues for CBN News. Some of her recent stories have focused on religious liberties, technology, AIDS, overseas missions, domestic trafficking, and politics.  Follow Heather on Twitter @SellsHeather and "like" her at Facebook.com/HeatherSellsCBNNews.