The babies who arrive in the baby box are beautiful – all babies are. But hundreds of unwanted babies are abandoned in Seoul, South Korea, like discarded trash or half-eaten food, adding to the millions worldwide. After Pastor Lee Jong-Rak of Jusarang (“God’s Love”) Community Church discovered the body of a dead infant, left in the street, he knew he had to do something. And the story of Focus on the Family’s documentary, The Drop Box,was born.
Almost entirely in Korean, The Drop Box has a dramatic flair thanks to the cinematography employed by director Brian Ivie, a former University of Southern California student who heard Lee’s story thanks to a report in the Los Angeles Times. We see a baby saved, and the story flashes backward to tell us how Lee and his wife met. Employing clever animation with voiceovers from Lee and his wife, the story moves forward to the present mission: saving every child.
The community blossomed after Lee’s son Eun-man was hospitalized for fourteen years due to his disabilities, and abandoned children started to come to the Lees. Adopting four more children when they left the hospital, they were soon inundated with more and more children who were unwanted or couldn’t be cared for because of their disabilities. Then, in the late 2000s, the team at Jusarang heard about a project in the Czech Republic: the installation of baby boxes based on an age-old custom of foundling wheels.
Mothers would place their unwanted baby in the wheel and they might have a chance at a better life if someone found them. In the Czech Republic, churches were installing baby boxes so that mothers could anonymously leave their children hoping that someone would care for them. At least the abandoned babies might find someone to care for them… Thanks to Jusarang, each of the baby box children is found, known, named, special and sacred to Pastor Lee, because he knows those children are beloved by God.
The story of The Drop Box could be crushing. The film itself is intense and heart-wrenching, with stories of mistreatment of children beyond their abandonment in the Czech Republic, Russia, and South Korea. It’s sickening to consider someone leaving their own child, any child, in the street or on the steps of a stranger's home, but the reality of these children sometimes includes factors outside of the mother’s control. It’s terrible for the children and for their parents, some of them kids themselves, who end up in this position.
The debate over the value of the baby boxes, whether they are justifiable or ethical, raises more questions about what we consider just. Some morality-quoting parties propose that these baby boxes will diminish responsibility, because the birth parents have the baby boxes as an “out.” Others, more politically focused, raise questions about paperwork and citizenship. Both arguments ignore the scores of babies that were dying in the streets before the baby boxes were created, and the suicidal nature of unwed teenage mothers in Korean culture. The arguments cling to structure and formality over reality and compassion. They fail to show how these children bless the ones who initially intended to rescue them.
The Drop Box is not for the meek, but it will inform, challenge, and inspire you to value your own life, to value the lives of the children you know, and to consider how you can save a child from a life without love or basic needs. James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” This documentary will dare you to consider what work you’re doing toward the kingdom of God, in this life and in the life to come.