She has an “8-year deadline” ahead.
On August 30 (KST), Wednesday, Kim Kyu Jin became the first lesbian woman in South Korea to give birth. She and her wife, Kim Sae Yeon, are now the first lesbians in the country to step into parenthood.
The new mother, Kim Kyu Jin, shared in an interview that she thought of becoming a mother only after her boss at a multinational company in France asked her very casually over lunch once, “You are married? You are going to have a baby, right?”. The fact that her boss could ask the question so easily made her more accommodating of the idea that she could become a parent and have people’s acceptance.
I always thought I wouldn’t be able to raise a human being. But as my life became embellished with joy and stability, living with my wife and two cats for three years, I became brave enough to embrace new challenges.
— Kim Kyu Jin
Though Kim describes herself as “one of many people you would encounter on your daily commute,” she has been in the public eye twice already. Apart from this pregnancy and the birth of her child, Kim was also at the center of the media’s attention when she married her partner in 2019 in New York.
The process of becoming parents was not an easy one for this couple. Their options in Korea were limited since sperm banks are only accessible to heterosexual married couples with fertility issues. On the other hand, their other option, France, could accommodate non-heterosexual couples and single women but was experiencing a shortage of donor sperm. So, the couple turned to Belgium.
I wanted to get (IVF treatment) in France, where I was working at the time. But as France legalized fertility treatments for lesbian and single women, there was a sperm shortage. They said I would have to wait for more than a year and half. I was just stunned.
— Kim Kyu Jin
Even though Kim and her spouse have technically welcomed their first child into the world, there are complications ahead. Kim Sae Yeon, the spouse, will have no legal parental rights to the child and is not eligible for any parental leave or rights to act as a legal guardian of the child in case of medical emergencies.
The only resolution in this situation is a legal adoption of the child by Kim Sae Yeon. However, since her marriage is not acknowledged by South Korean law, she will be seen as an unmarried woman trying to adopt, which is not the easiest in Korea.
Despite the difficulties, Kim recognizes her relative privilege in terms of her socioeconomic background. She grew up in a middle-class family in Seoul, graduated from a reputed university, and currently has a steady career in marketing at a global corporation. But after living by the book for so long, Kim is ready to embrace the unconventional.
There are so many types of parents in Korea who are marginalized from the majority. Not just lesbians, but low-income parents, parents with physical disabilities, multicultural families, divorced families and single parents. Should we all be banned from raising children? Discrimination against specific groups makes a society discriminatory as a whole.
— Kim Kyu Jin
Kim Kyu Jin is now looking forward to her so-called “8-year deadline.” Eight years from now, her daughter will be attending elementary school, which will be her first interaction with society on her own. Kim and her wife are hopeful that Korea can change the existing social bias against queer families by then.
Korea is such a fast-changing country. Just as my father told me, this will become something that is not so unusual to people by then. He said that 30 years ago, people the with same last name couldn’t get married.
It is the hope for change that has made Kim willingly step at the forefront of LGBTQ+ rights in the country and share her life publicly to create more visibility and make acceptance easier. “If I speak out and show the world how ordinary I am, then wouldn’t people become more understanding of the fact that there is really very little that separates us and them?” she wonders.
Together, imagining the day when our child enters elementary school, my wife worries about being an old mom. She would be in her 40s by then. I laughed … (and) I told her, unnie, shouldn’t you worry more about our daughter getting teased or bullied for having two mothers? I hope by then, us looking old would be the only thing we have to worry about.
— Kim Kyu Jin