updated 8 Jun 2012, 09:21
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Fri, May 18, 2012
The Korea Herald/Asia News Network
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Danish princess visits Korean unwed moms
by Kirsty Taylor

She has supported projects to combat prejudice in her own country, and now the Danish Crown Princess has visited unwed mothers and their children in Seoul.

Princess Mary took time out of her hectic schedule to visit members of the Korean Unwed Mothers and Family Association during the state visit with her husband Crown Prince Frederik from May 10-15.

Mary and Frederik have four young children of their own, and the princess has long championed the right of individuals to belong to communities without exclusion.

Her own charity, The Mary Foundation, aims to encourage tolerance of diversity and help socially isolated people.

She asked if attitudes were changing toward unwed mothers in Korean society, and what support was available for KUMFA during her visit at the Korea Foundation for Women in Seoul on Tuesday.

She also showed concern about what the organization would do when funding stops this year for the shelter it runs in Hongdae for new unwed mothers and pregnant women.

The princess highlighted social inclusion as an issue that is very close to her heart.

"It needs to be talked about," she said.

"It is something that needs to be discussed at all levels of society.

"My foundation is all about prevention and alleviation of isolation in society."

The mothers gave a presentation on KUMFA and introduced her to their children.

"She is really gorgeous," said KUMFA member Ko Yoon-hee.

"My daughter really likes pretty women, so she really liked her.

"Her attitude toward the unwed mothers was very polite and kind. She gives a great image of the Danish royal family."

Like many of KUMFA's 1,600 online members, Ko is battling societal prejudice to live a normal life with her child in Korea.

Giving just one example, Ko explained that if her three-year-old daughter had been born a year earlier, she would not have been able to take her mother's family name.

Before 2008 children born in Korea had to take their father's surname, the single mother who works in marketing explained.

However, thanks to a recent change in the law Jin-sol could take the surname Ko.

KUMFA is campaigning on multiple levels to ensure all basic rights are given to unwed mothers, and to ensure that they do not face prejudice if they choose to raise their children alone.

Ko said that having many Danish journalists present at the princess' visit could help further promote their cause.

"We think they will publish about our issue in European countries because the European media is really open," she said.

"We have a PR person here and she is doing really well, and Korean media sometimes contacts her for articles, but it is limited to the more liberal media and online media.

"We want to take more action to change the social attitudes toward unwed mothers. Most unwed mothers are hiding because they don't want their families to be confronted with that kind of prejudice. Most of them keep hiding rather than coming out but if people in society can change their attitudes then they and their children can come out and open to society.

"Sometimes they are suffering from physical or verbal violence in school. We would like to change that kind of prejudice toward our children."

On Friday, Princess Mary was also given a tour of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the Pediatric Cancer Center and the Cancer School at Samsung Medical Center in Gangnam, Seoul.

She and Prince Frederik also visited the DMZ during her stay.

"It is very hard to describe," she said when asked her impression of the border area.

"It is hard to believe that in today's society there is such an isolated country as North Korea side by side with such a developed country."

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