Update, September 2014: This recent Groove magazine article on abortion is a must-read.
Update, August 2014: Please note that this post is nearly three years old, and that the author left Korea before it was written. I’m happy to pass on the name and address of the specific clinic she used, but unfortunately it may no longer be there, or may no longer be performing abortions.
Instead, I recommend listening to this May 2014 interview of another woman who had an abortion here, and contacting the producers of that podcast if you’d like any more information.
Thanks again to this university student for taking the time to write about her recent experience. Naturally, she’d like to remain anonymous, but she’d be happy to answer any questions readers may have in the comments (provided they’re not too intrusive):
……For me it started when I didn’t get my period. I was a bit worried as two weeks ago, during intercourse, my boyfriend’s condom slipped and so we had to change in the middle to a new one. Anyways, the pregnancy test kit came out with two visible lines. I was surprised and was stunned for about two minutes. Then, reality hit me: I didn’t cry, I immediately called my boyfriend, and we talked about this together, which I think was, for me, a better way to relax and calm down than crying.
We accessed the situation and decided to get an abortion, as we were both university students and thus didn’t have any ability to support ourselves. For me, having a baby in Korea meant that any chances of you getting a professional job was over, and I just couldn’t face that, not only because of my dreams but also because of the huge demands that my parents bore to put me in college. Even if we had the baby, I reasoned, we wouldn’t be able to raise him/her in a high-quality environment, as both of us would probably be working at low paid jobs w/ long hours just to support our family. We began to search up abortion clinics in our area and was lucky to find one with ease.
However, due to the government regulating abortions with more severity, we were worried about the price of an abortion. We searched up and found that (I was 4 weeks pregnant, or 2 weeks past from the initial fertilization) about 3 yrs ago, before the minister of health had said that stupid comment about abortion and fertility rates, it was about 400,000 won for women who were 4 weeks pregnant like me. But, more current searches showed that it could now be anywhere from 1 to 2 million won – basically it depends on what the hospital says, as there is no set price, and with the new regulations doctors can lose their license if it’s proved that they’ve done it more than 3 times. We were very stressed over this issue, as prices tend to skyrocket with each passing week (source, right).
Anyways, we entered the clinic, and I got an ultrasound. The doctor said that the fetus at that stage was too small, and that I should visit the next week. I was initially skeptical as I wasn’t sure if the doctor was telling the truth or if she wanted me to pay a bit more, but I had no choice, and did as the doctor told me. The following week I re-visited the clinic but this time a different doctor checked the fetus. And what she said made me upset. Basically, she told me that I shouldn’t have such a loose lifestyle, that I should care more about contraception, why I had waited so long before coming to visit, and so on and so forth. But I had no choice, since if I go to a different clinic I have to pay for the ultrasound again. After that dismal lecture, I went to discuss the pay and other things with another person (I don’t know what her job is exactly-maybe some sort of consultant?). The pay was 800,000 won, which was a relief. The consultant explained everything: how I shouldn’t eat anything 6 hrs before the operation, how I might not be able to have a baby ever again, how much it costs, what the aftereffects were, how I needed my boyfriend (who’s a bit older than I was) to act as a guardian and so I needed him to come with me on the day of the operation, and so forth.
During the next day, we desperately raised some money; I was worried as well not because of the money but because of the guilt. I tried to assuage my feelings – after all, a 5 week old baby doesn’t have its cerebrum developed yet; it doesn’t have feelings – but it was a bit hard. But in the end, the day came, and I went to the clinic, signed everything (the abortion was to be called a missed abortion, and since it’s outlawed I can’t demand any sort of papers from them), paid (in cash), and got ready for the operation. When I went into the operation room, it frightened me. There was this bed, and there was a little metal bowl right under it-that’s when it hit me the most that something that could potentially grow into a being with feelings would be erased forever, never to appear again, and it made me quite sad, but I had no choice – I couldn’t back out. They strapped me onto the bed, and I was knocked out. The next thing I remember is being back in the little ward (it’s very small-about the size of a small elevator, and is for one person only) with my boyfriend right next to me; apparently I had just cried, hugged the nurse and said “sorry” and “thank you”, and then had thrown up. After about 30 minutes of lying down and talking with my boyfriend, the dizziness subsided, the cramp in my stomach had went away, and I walked out of the ward. The lady at the counter said that I had to re-visit about 2 days from now, and then every 3~4 days to check up for the next two weeks (the price was all included in the initial payment) and gave me some medicine.
Overall, it was not that much of a traumatic experience, but I won’t ever be able to forget the little bowl. It saddens me even now (end).
See here and here for two more accounts of getting an abortion, in Seoul and Busan respectively, and here for more context on the criminalization of abortion in Korea in recent years (or, technically, the sudden enforcement of existing laws, after being ignored for 60 years).
Update: See here for a thoughtful response to this post by Roboseyo.
Update 2: And here for another by Angry K-pop Fan. Just to clarify something mentioned in both though, while my wife, for instance, was once unfortunate enough to come across a very judgmental pharmacist when buying the pill, that was over a decade ago. Indeed, as Gomushin Girl and many other commenters here have pointed out, that is extremely rare these days (especially in the cities), and regardless they did (and do) still sell it nevertheless, unlike some US pharmacists that refuse to for religious reasons.