After 66 years, abortion was once again decriminalized in South Korea. In its ruling, the country’s Constitutional Court called the anti-abortion law “an unconstitutional restriction that violates a pregnant woman’s right to choose.” The Parliament is given until the end of 2020 to revise the law.
Under South Korea’s criminal code, women who violate the law can spend up to a year in prison or pay a fine of up to two million won (approx P90,100). Meanwhile, doctor or medical practitioners who aid an abortion face up to two years in prison.
“The ruling marks an important stride in strengthening gender equality and women’s right to make choices for themselves,” People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy said of the historic ruling.
In a government-financed survey last year, it was shown that three-quarters of surveyed South Korean women of childbearing age were against the law. In fact, abortion remained widespread in the country despite the ban. According to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, in 2017 alone, about 49,700 abortions took place, and nearly 94 percent of them were done illegally (exceptions were granted to cases involving rape, incest, and genetic disability). Though the law wasn’t enforced properly, the government’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family stressed that it “forced abortions underground, exposing women to medical accidents.”
View this post on Instagram
So I’ve had a lot of thoughts about this and wanted to make a post about this the day it happened, as a Korean woman and as nice as it is that abortion has been legalized in Korea, I think it’s important to point out that abortion was criminalized in 1953. It has not always been criminalized, in fact, abortions have been illegal for only 66 years. Obviously, as someone who is pro-choice, it still hurts my heart thinking of all the people who had to suffer through unsafe backdoor abortions and unwanted pregnancies but it’s not the way that Korea has always been. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the history, 1953 is when the Korean War “ended” (it still hasn’t officially ended, but it’s when the battles stopped). The criminalization of abortion happened BECAUSE of western imperialism in Korea. It happened BECAUSE of America’s “democratization” and “liberation” of Korea. Western colonialism in Korea set us BACK so to celebrate it as a step forwards, as a step towards more “equal” and “advanced” Western countries is insulting and entirely inaccurate. The legalization of abortion is a step towards decolonizing Korea, not a step towards western democracy.
While many celebrate this as a “progressive” move, it is important to note what IG user @unapologeticallynotintoyou pointed out: That abortion was only criminalized in 1953, “when the Korean War ‘ended.’” According to the user, one can thus conclude that “criminalization of abortion happened BECAUSE of Western imperialism in Korea. It happened BECAUSE of America’s democratization’ and ‘liberation’ of Korea.” Stressing, “To celebrate it as a step forward, as a step towards more ‘equal’ and ‘advanced’ Western countries is insulting and entirely inaccurate. The legalization of abortion is a step towards decolonizing Korea, not a step towards western democracy.”
The New York Times meanwhile wrote that the South Korean government’s attitude on their population affected the policy. “In the 1970s and 1980s, as the government struggled to curtail population growth, it told families that “two children are one too many” and looked the other way as abortions became widespread. In more recent years, however, the country has tried to reverse its falling birthrate, which is one of the lowest in the world, with an average of less than one child per woman.” Explaining further, “The government’s attitude toward abortion has also shifted, with officials often calling it unpatriotic and threatening to crack down on the procedure.”
In February, a coalition of pro-abortion women’s groups said in a statement, “When there were too many people, they told us ‘not to produce babies’ in the name of family planning, and when they thought there were not enough people, they then told us ‘to produce babies’ or face punishment.” Adding, “We can no longer put up with this deceitful frame.”
We are one with these groups in celebrating the victory. But also, we have to say: Please, please stop politicizing women’s bodies. We are fed up with it.
Photo courtesy of Inquirer.net
For the latest in culture, fashion, beauty, and celebrities, subscribe to our weekly newsletter here
The 11-year-old rape victim from Argentina who asked for an abortion should have gotten it
The impact of Argentina and Ireland decriminalizing abortion
The ‘Testicular Bill of Rights’ wants to control men’s reproductive system
How these cartoons are tackling social issues like abortion and sexual assault