▲ Kopinos are having a afterschool activity. Provided by Korea Kopino Association.
Have you ever heard of Kopino? The word may sound strange. Recently, however, the issue of Kopinos and their problems have been rising as their exposure in the media continues to increase. Kopino is a term that refers to children who are of mixed Korean men and Filipina descent. In most cases, Kopinos were born when Korean men visiting the Philippines for business, studies, or sightseeing had short term relationships with Filipina. There are nearly 30,000 second generation Koreans overseas who are Kopinos.
The problem is that most fathers of Kopinos have left their family in the Philippines without taking any responsibility.The Philippines takes the Kopinos’ problem seriously and it is a problem that Korea too should seek to resolve.
▲ Kopinos and their mother are talking about their stories. Provided by Korea KopinoAssociation.
The Korea Kopino Assosiation (KKA) is making an effort. The KKA was started by a small group of congenial people with pure intentions who wanted to help Kopino children. It tries to enhance the national image of Korea by cooperating with emerging countries to develop education and welfare. KKA’s purpose is not only to solve Kopino’s education, sanitation and welfare problems, but also to support the Filipinas who are financially and culturally neglected by Korean men.
KKA’s plans have been implemented on a practical level. It has operated some after-school programs such as Korean classes, education for identity of Kopinos, and special aptitude education. In addition to these educational support systems, there are financial supports that provide scholarships and other necessities to Kopino households. KKA also made a business agreement with the Philippines Kopino Association (PKA), giving support to the Kopinos in the Philippines.
▲ Kopinos and their mothers are participated in a Korean language class. Provided byKorea Kopino Association.
The chairman of the association, Han Moon Gi, said that he felt rewarded helping the Kopinos and their mothers. In particular, he takes delight in his work when he and the members’ good will is delivered to the Kopino children. He added, “We have become attached to Kopino children while eating, sleeping, and breathing next to them together in the Philippines. The children are lovely when they look up at us with their beautiful clear eyes and bright smiles.”
Despite the effort of KKA and many Koreans who support Kopinos, there was once a difficult time for them. Some overseas Koreans made ill use of the seriousness of the Kopino situation and thought of it as a business opportunity; KKA was wrongly accused of doing the same. When a current affairs TV program covered the “Kopino business,” not so long ago, many volunteers and supporters with only good hearts were misunderstood by the public.
▲ Han is providing necessaries to Kopinos. Provided by Korea Kopino Association.
With regard to this matter, Han poured out his feelings of regret. “We got phone calls from here and there. We and many supporters are still very upset about the misunderstanding. We give Kopinos a helping hand with good intentions and sincere hearts. Because of some selfish people, well-meaning people like us are harmed and crippled.”
Despite this difficult period, KKA has still expressed genuine concern and willingness to help Kopinos. Han also said that he was very grateful that they could support Kopinos. When asked what makes volunteers and supporters decide to help Kopinos, Han said, “Generally, they see through the media that many Kopinos suffer from hunger and bad circumstances, and come to us to offer a helping hand.” He felt that the media has a powerful influence on the public. Han stated emphatically that the role of the media is also important in solving the Kopino problems.
▲ Kopinos receive necessities by the KPA. Provided by Korea Kopino Association.
Many media covered a story about a Filipino mother who had won a paternity suit. Being an extremely uncommon case, it October 2015 23 was shocking to many people all over the world and it damaged the reputation of Korea. When asked whether the KKA has also tried to help Filipino mothers find the Kopinos’ father, Han said, “No, while the fathers are irresponsible and should be forced to support the Kopinos’ upbringing, I believe that the paternity suits can destroy a family and cause another tragedy. KKA rather focuses on the welfare, stabilization of livelihood, and education
for Kopino children and Filipino mothers.”
Some Koreans question whether Korean society should be made responsible for the Kopino problem. In many cases, Kopinos are born through sex tourism between Filipina and Korean men. Han said, “Many Filipinos tend to think of Korea as a developed country and show interest in Korean men. Also, unlike in Korea, a single mom nurturing a child of mixed nationality is not something to be ashamed of in the culture of the Philippines.” Furthermore, the Philippines prohibits abortion and there are not many contraception methods available which aggravates the situation.
▲ A Kopino Support Evening is held. Provided by special-1.co.kr.
Kopinos are also second generation Koreans and they need care from the father’s country. In the case of Japino, who are children of Japanese men and Filipinas, the Japanese government opens doors for them so that they can acquire Japanese citizenship, provides welfare and education, and even helps them get a job. Han said, “The Korean government should take a leaf out of the Japanese book in this case.”
Han suggested other solutions to prevent Kopino problems. “At the state level, through public relations, the government should make people recognize the Kopinos and their predicament. Through the media, the Kopino problems should be exposed to arouse people’s attention.” In addition, he suggested that it would be a good preventative measure if travel agencies write about the Kopino problems in the travel brochures so that tourists going to the Philippines can act with more caution.
▲ Han says, "I wish Kopino children can make a choir and perform in Korea."Photographed by Lee So Yong.
“The people using Kopino kids to earn money should not be so wicked and acquisitive, and the Korean men traveling to the Philippines should not fall off the wagon,” he said. KKA has always supported Kopinos and that will not stop now and forever. Han said, “I have one dream. In the near future, I wish Kopino children can make a choir and perform in Korea, their father’s country.” He also added, “I hope that Kopino children will grow up to be great adults and play a role in promoting exchange between Korea and the Philippines.” With the support from the KKA, a promising future awaits Kopinos.