The Drop Box: Love and Sacrifice in Korea

By Kathryn Jean Lopez Published on March 10, 2015

Eun-man is 26 years old. He was born with cerebral palsy. He spent 14 years in a hospital, and many people are grateful for it. 

During his hospital stay, his father, a pastor in South Korea, wound up ministering to other children, many of them with disabilities, many of them abandoned. He adopted some of them. And the children in need kept coming.

Eun-man’s life has been a lifesaver.

Abandonment of newborn babies is a common practice in South Korea. A mother can’t handle the child she has given birth to. So she or someone else leaves the baby in front of a home, hoping those inside will take on the responsibility that she can’t. Sometime around 2008, Lee Jong-rak, Eun-man’s father, noticed that these children were everywhere. And many of them didn’t survive, dying of exposure before anyone could get to them. He knew he had to do something. 

Pastor Lee and his wife not only opened their home to some of these children, they sent out invitations, so to speak. The community church they run has become a home for the abandoned and disabled. They established a “baby box,” a warm bin in which mothers can anonymously leave their babies with the assurance that the babies will be cared for.

At the beginning of the new documentary The Drop Box, produced and distributed by Focus on the Family and Kindred Image, you hear the sound that occurs when someone drops off a baby. The alert sounds like a doorbell. “When I hear this sound, my heart drops,” Lee says. 

“With my heart beating fast, I run down. I take the baby out. ‘Thank you, God, for saving this child’s life.'”

Some of the babies come with letters. One teenage mother wrote: “I didn’t know what to do by myself alone.” She knew that in Pastor Lee’s hands, “My son would be raised very well.”

Hannah was one of the abandoned. Hannah’s mother — who was in middle school — had taken drugs while pregnant, and her daughter was born with a brain disease. She had to breathe through her neck and eat through her nose. It was quite the effort to care for her, but Pastor Lee and his wife did so with love. So much so that they were heartbroken when she died, at 6 years old. 

As Young Ran Jeong, a director at Pastor Lee’s church,  describes it, “Hannah lived a beautiful life and left us.” Rather than question whether such a painful life was worth the effort of the people who cared for Hannah and Hannah herself, Lee sees Hannah and her struggle as both a gift and an inspiration. 

“Because of Hannah many people felt peace in their hearts,” Young says. “There were many people who thought: ‘There is a child living like this, I should not live my life so carelessly.'”

Young says when those who knew Hannah at his church see her picture, they often say: “Hannah, let’s meet in heaven.”

Pastor Lee credits his son Eun-man for anything good he has accomplished. It was not easy to care for him, or to understand why he has had to suffer. Lee says that he “learned about the dignity of valuable life” through his son. 

People like Pastor Lee and his wife make it clear there is no such thing as an unwanted baby. If every one of us could only tap into the depths of our hearts for the love and sacrifice that the world needs. That’s what Pastor Lee, his wife and his church did. And countless Korean children are alive because of it.

Kathryn Jean Lopez is senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online and founding director of Catholic Voices USAShe can be contacted at [email protected].


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