Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Visit to Baby Box

During my past visit to Korea, I had a chance to visit with the Pastor Lee, Jong Nak of the Jusarang Church that operates the "Baby Box", where a birthmother may secretly drop off her unwanted baby without being questioned, or be seen.  The unwanted babies are usually dropped off at night.

I have heard of the Baby Box concept being practiced in other countries many years ago, but the one operated by the Pastor Lee is the first of its kind in Korea, and it has drawn many criticism, but much greater number of praises and supports have been given to the Baby Box as many know that this has saved the lives of many babies.

But my real interest in the Baby Box and the Pastor Lee came after I was contacted by a young film making student from USC.  Brian Ivie heard of the Pastor Lee and the Baby Box, and an idea formed in his head that he wanted to do a documentary film on the Baby Box.  So he took a dozen friends and their equipment to Korea about this time last year and visited with the Pastor Lee and the Baby Box. 

After he came back from Korea, Brian sat me down to film my interviews with him where I provided the rationale why such concept like the Baby Box is a necessity, especially in light of the passage of the new adoption law in Korea. I understand that by now the documentary is finished, and Brian was planning to take the film to the Sundance Film Festival.  Best wishes to Brian and his friends on this meaningful project.

Mrs. Han, the MPAK-Korea president took me to the facility, and the first thing I noticed was that the Jusarang Church that houses the Baby Box was not easy to find.  So I wondered how the birth mothers would know where to find the facility despite much publicity in recent days.  The Jusarang Church was located in a heavily populated residential area on a downhill slope of a hill, and the church looked more like a typical house than a church building.

The banner reads The Jusarang Church.  The Baby Box is located up the ten steps on the left, mounted on the wall, just below the windows.
Mrs. Han of the MPAK-Korea President listens to the story of the Baby Box from its founder, the Pastor Lee, Jong Nak of the Jusarang Church
A child who is a special need sleeps in a room.  This girl came to the facility through the Baby Box.
A housemother looks after the young ones living at the Jusarang Church. The place is a home to 19 children, where most of them are special needs.
The Pastor Lee demonstrates to me how the Baby Box works.  A birthmother may open this door, and leave a baby inside the box.  Once the door closes, the bell rings inside the church to indicate that a baby has been left inside the box, thus the term Baby Box.
The Pastor Lee, Jong Nak smoothes out the blanket inside the Baby Box.
The Pastor Lee stands next to the closed Baby Box.  The orange colored words read, "For a birthmother that could not raise her special needs baby or unwedded birth, please pull the handle below and leave your baby inside."  The blue words just above the handle reads, "Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me." Psalm 27:10
This is the Baby Box door opened from inside.  The Blue writing inside the door states, "Please write down the date of birth." In the early dawn of the day when we visited, we were told that another baby came through this door. 
On one occasion at night, the Baby Box bell rang, and the pastor went outside to see if he could find anyone.  In the dark corner stood a young woman as she was sobbing.  The pastor approached her and invited her into the facility.  There the pastor counseled the woman and praised her for seeing the baby to the full birth rather than aborting the baby.  The pastor then told her to come back if she ever wanted the baby back.  But he never heard from her again.
But then there was a young couple that gave up their baby through the Baby Box and came back later and took back the baby. 
When asked how the Baby Box got started, he shared a story that one frosty morning a baby was left on his door step with a thin blanket wrapped.  The pastor tried his best to revive the baby back, but it was too late. 
He also heard of a couple that did not know what to do with their unwanted baby, and went up the hill and strangulated the baby and buried in the hill.
The pastor looked for a way that birthmothers might abandon their babies safely.  The Baby Box was born out of neccessity to save lives.
The pastor had a special heart for the children in his care.  He took me into a room where his biological son lay.  He was over 20 years old, and he was severerly deformed in his face and his legs were split wide open side ways.  Even though they were covered by a blanket, you could tell that he was an extreme case.  The pastor confessed, "It is because of my son that I have a heart to do what I do."
I looked at the boy and wondered how difficult it must have been for him to suffer like this since his birth.  I felt a deep sense of pity and pain as I looked at him.  There was no word that I could utter.  There was no comforting words that could come out of me.  I laid my hand upon the boy's head and looked at him, and I bowed down my head and gave a short prayer.  The pastor prayed with me.
Before getting up to leave the place I thought about taking a picture of the boy, but decided not to out of respect. As weak as he was, and as feeble as he lay deformed, there was the power of the One that binds all of us together - the boy, the pastor, and the visitors.


  1. wow. Thank you for sharing such a touching story.

  2. Steve, thanks so much for sharing your experience. I was touched by the idea of the baby box when I first read about it on your blog. Pastor Lee and the people who work with him are doing an incredible work! I'd love to know if these become more common in Korea, or if the Baby Box at Jusarang Church remains unique.

  3. Terrible situation and so touching. Thanks for sharing it, Steve.

  4. Thank you for this information

  5. I'm heartbroken as well as inspired by Pastor Lee's commitment. How can we help? Thank you so much for sharing. This story needs to be told. Please keep us all informed of any updates you hear on the film.

  6. It would be nicer if I could decipher the text.

  7. I just saw this on Channel News Asia, the Korean government is not trying to shutdown this organization, claiming that what Pastor Lee is doing is illegal. There is an online petition in Change.org for them.

  8. Hi everybody my name is angie and we are really interested in adoption , we live in Spain and didn t much like the adoption though agency, somebody has told us than you can go to a country and present the adoption there though the ambassy.
    Does anybody know how this works?

  9. Steve, I just learned that the documentary about Pastor Lee's baby box is complete (or nearly?). You can view the trailer here: http://vimeo.com/41412962