Teens who turn 18 years old in South Korean orphanages face struggles that children with families do not. They cannot stay in the orphanage, but they have no family to help them and no place to go. When in high school, many orphaned children are put in technical training instead of regular classes so they do not have the knowledge to pass the national exams to go to college. Making matters worse, job applications in South Korea ask for bloodlines. Not having any means they will not get hired, or will be paid less than those who can report their family registry. Many young orphaned men end up in low-paying factory jobs and many young women work in bars or become prostitutes because those are the only jobs they can find. Because South Korea requires about two years of military service from males 18–35 years old, some orphans join the ROK Army, Navy, or Air Force. Even there, these young men are treated poorly and viewed in a lower social rank because they are orphans.
In a society that shuns orphans, these children have already faced years of being rejected, and it continues as adults. The unfair treatment reaches every area of their lives including marriage. Most parents refuse to let their children marry orphans, so the stigma goes on and on.
Few South Korean orphans get to go to college because they do not have the financial and social support they need to succeed. Tuition is expensive and although the government will give them a one-time grant for school if they pass the national exams, it is not enough for orphans to go even one full semester and pay tuition, buy food, and pay room and board. The few orphans that do make it to college live gruelling lives that start work at 6 a.m. and end sometimes after midnight. Many drop out because they cannot work and study full time, they become exhausted, lose hope, and burn out. If they are to be successful, it will take the help of others who do not look down on them, who do not punish them for being orphans, and who instead reach out a hand of help and hope to make a bright future possible.
Written by Kitty Bickford for Wooree English