Mother At 56 Thanks To Assisted Fertility, Now Fights For Custody Of Daughter

An Italian mother, now 58, and father, 70, are fighting to have their two-year-old back from foster care. The couple appealed in court to get the child back, claiming that she was taken away from them because of their age. Now a judge has ordered a new pr

In Italy, Mother's Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May (Keoni Cabral)
In Italy, Mother's Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May (Keoni Cabral)
Grazia Longo

TORINO – They didn't shed a tear for the six hours of the hearing. "We are balanced people, absolutely able to be parents," said Gabriella Deambrosis, a 58-year-old librarian who gave birth two years ago to a daughter.

Deambrosis and her husband, Luigi, (he's a retired clerk, aged 70), were in court this week fighting for custody of their daughter Viola, who was was taken away last September after social services determined they were not fit to raise the girl. The couple, who conceived the girl with the help of assisted fertility, appeared this week before the family section of the Court of Appeals.

The court had to decide whether Viola (a pseudonym) should return and live with them, or stay with the foster family, who would then be able to permanently adopt her. While Viola remains with the foster family, judges Wednesday ordered a new probe into the capacity of the couple to raise the child.

The case first came to light last September, when the Children's Tribunal of Turin forced the Deambrosises to give up custody of their daughter. The couple appealed the verdict. Rather than taking a definite decision Wednesday, judges ordered the launch of new probe to assess the "parental capacity" of the couple.

"They punished us because of our age, because we are not young," says Luigi Deambrosis.

The lower court judge had said that age was not the deciding factor, but rather signs that the baby girl had not been properly looked after, including an episode where Luigi left Viola in the car while he unloaded groceries.

The deputy prosecutor did not seem convinced by the original probe of the law enforcement officer who inspected the couple, and called for a new evaluation. "We are confident because we have found magistrates who listened to us," said Fabio Deorsola, the couple's lawyer.

Judges followed the prosecution's recommendations. One psychiatrist and one psychologist will help assess the ability of the couple to be parents. A decision is expected in September. Until then, Viola will remain with the foster family.

Read the original article in Italian

Photo – Keoni Cabral

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Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum


SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.

It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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