(Source: Surija / “Sray”; CC BY 2.0)
Why not? Well, because Korean women are stupid apparently, unable to do so much as read the instructions and numerous warnings about possible side-effects that come with the product, let alone do their own research and make their own choice about what contraception is best for them personally.
Or at least, that is the more benign reading of this warning from the KMA, and to be fair, given such factors as Koreans’ general reluctance to self-diagnose and be proactive about treating any medical condition that they might have themselves, and many Korean women’s complete reliance on men to use contraception, then at first glance there is nothing to distinguish the top-down, patronizing but also paternalistic tone of the KMA in the warning as any different from any other Korean institution’s relationship with the Korean public. In reality however, in its bias and scare-mongering it demonstrates an explicit and almost sinister vested interest in maintaining the huge abortion industry here.
No, really. That may sound like hyperbole, but then the Korean state already has a long history as an extremely invasive and coercive force in Koreans’ reproductive lives, its population policy in the 1960s and 1970s only slightly less draconian than that of China’s today, at many points having soldiers withdrawn from the DMZ at the height of the Cold War to deliver IUDs and perform abortions in the Korean countryside for instance (see this book for more on that). And such industry-related claims are also widely acknowledged of Japanese health authorities (albeit not so much in Japan itself), which banned the pill for three decades and which Japanese women are still scared of using, so why not of Korea ones too?
But regardless of that background, how else are we to interpret the evidence from just the KMA’s warning alone? Consider that:
- It provides no information about possible side-effects that I didn’t already know about 10 years ago (and I’m a guy remember), which begs the question of why the Korea Times considered it “news” exactly.
- It literally doesn’t provide a single positive medical benefit of using them, and naturally the Korea Times fails its most basic of journalistic duties by not providing them either.
- It implies that somehow there is somehow something unique to contraceptive pills and not, say…amphetamines that makes women’s access to them in much more urgent need of being restricted.
- And finally, that in a country where double-standards, moralistic pharmacists and medical staff, virtually non-existent sex education, and a lack of access already combine to severely limit women’s sexual confidence and choices of contraception in practice (see here)…surely it is telling that the most senior medical institution in the country is literally scaring women away from using the single safest and most effective contraceptive in human history?
Actually, I do agree that there are some benefits to women of, say, requiring a prescription from a doctor to get the pill, one poster in this forum (which I give a hat tip to for some of the above) pointing out that it means many women will usually get gynecological examinations at the same time, wheres they wouldn’t have bothered otherwise. But, one should always be very careful to acknowledge the different contexts in which they occur, and I dare say that most young British women buying contraceptives, for instance, are not asked by pharmacists if they’re married, or alternatively the same by doctors and nurses rather than a more neutral, non-judgmental inquiry as to if they are sexually active. To require a prescription in those circumstances would surely mean that many women simply wouldn’t go to get them all, which renders quick and easy access to the pill, albeit online if you don’t look 25 or older, one of the very few positives about Korean sexual culture (source, right: NEWSis).
Ending on another positive note, all trends in Korea point to continued increased use of the pill over time, and I’m not merely seeking brownie points among my readers when I say that I do have confidence in Korean women even just considering the pill not to be swayed by “warnings” like this. Given how, as I explained in my last post on the subject, half the battle is getting many Korean women to take an active role in using contraception at all, then merely thinking about all the pros and cons of the options available is an important first step. And of those that have done so, then I dare say that from that point on they will apply a more discerning eye to the ravings of groups like the KMA!
Update: In case anyone wants it, here is the original warning in Korean too.