A baby of an immigrant woman is playing at a daycare center at a community center for foreigners in Ansan.
/ Korea Times photo by Shim Hyun-chul
By Park Si-soo, Rachel LeeANSAN, Gyeonggi Province ― Choi Rema Cyril returns home to her modest apartment just as the wall-mounted cuckoo-clock chimes nine times.It has been nearly 14 hours since the 43-year-old, who is a naturalized Korean from the Philippines, left for work. There to greet her are her two pajama-clad daughters who watched TV as they waited for their mother.“Hello, did you have a good day?” Choi asked her daughters in Korean. “What did you eat for dinner and did you do your homework?”“Yes, mom,” the tired children quietly answered.This night-time scene repeats itself from Monday to Saturday at Choi’s home. After divorcing her husband last year because of his repeated alcohol-induced violence, Choi works at an auto parts manufacturer as a quality checker, making around 1.3 million won ($1,150) a month.Her job is backbreaking for a middle-aged woman because every day she needs to lift and examine hundreds of auto parts, each weighing several kilograms. Earlier this year, she injured her left shoulder because of a muscle strain.“It’s extremely tough to live on this type of income,” Choi said in broken Korean. “But there is no alternative in sight.”Her first child Hyeon-jin, a sixth grader at Ansan’s Wonil Elementary School, wants to have family picnics on weekends. Her second child Su-jin, a fourth grader, hopes to taste her mother’s fried egg dish every night. But they are often disappointed because their mother is too busy.When Choi married her Korean husband in 2000, he was a warm-hearted man and devout Christian. She left her parents in Iloilo City in the central Philippines, in the belief she would form an “ideal” family in Korea. But this dream was shattered.“My ex-husband now lives in a tiny studio-like cubicle. Even after the divorce, he occasionally comes here to harass me,” Choi said, fighting back tears. “As a result, I filed a petition with the court and it ordered him to keep at least 50 meters away from me or he will be arrested.”She complained that her ex-husband broke his promise to provide 300,000 won a month in child support but she won’t force him to keep that promise because she knows he is poor.Choi’s small but cozy house is a “shelter” owned by the local Catholic church she attends. She pays 150,000 won a month to live there.Despite hardships, she still holds onto her Korean dream.“I will try to have a happy family,” she said. “There is a clear reason (for me) to live ― for my daughters. No matter how tough my life may be, I have to stay healthy and make money until my children graduate from university.”Kang Sun-hye, director of the multicultural family policy division at the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, said that the government has put a variety of measures in place and plans to launch more to help solve problems immigrant women face.