Korean Women Pressured to Abort Girl Babies to Try for Sons

Although fetal sex identification and abortion are against the law in South Korea, women continue to feel pressure to abort girl fetuses in order to try for sons. Compared to a natural ratio of 105 boys born for every 100 girls (which later evens out to 1:1 since boys die earlier), some regions in South Korea have rates of 125 boys born to every 100 girls resulting in 30,000 fewer girls born each year than would be the case without sex-influenced abortions. The overall ratio in Korea is 116 boys to 100 girls. A Chinese government report in 1992 found the ratio in China at 118.5 boys to 100 girls, statistics which embarrassed the government enough that it never formally released the results.

Korean families are often disappointed when women produce daughters while news of boys is cause for celebration. “My mother-in-law called up my sister-in-law three times to tell her it was a boy,” said Lee Tae-rim, already a mother of two girls. “Soon after I delivered my son, my parents-in-law moved us into a larger apartment. They figured we needed an extra room for the baby boy.” Since women traditionally marry into the husband’s family, Koreans see a sonless family as one that will die when the father dies. However, women have recently made other gains in the country whose government legally removed discrimination against women in the inheritance of property. The government has also banned “males-only” job advertisements. Despite a 1994 ban on aborting female fetuses, however, the act remains common.


New York Times - January 14, 1996

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