Getting an Abortion in Korea

(Source: Unknown)

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.

75 thoughts on “Getting an Abortion in Korea

  1. Thank you so much to the writer for sharing your story! I’m sorry that you had to go through this experience and make such tough decisions, but I really appreciate you sharing with us here.

    One thing that continues to confuse me about birthing in Korea is how much shame a woman can experience from her doctor for having an abortion at 5 or 6 weeks while women who are 16-20 weeks pregnant and getting a questionable quad test back are put under tremendous pressure from their doctors to have an abortion at the first sign of possible problems with the fetus (I’ve had 3 friends go through this here. All refused an abortion, and all had perfectly fine babies). I also just heard of a woman who was told by a doctor at 26 weeks she had to have an abortion because of a suspected heart defect in her fetus (again, no defect). I suspect the difference has something to do with the married/unmarried statuses of the women, but it is still an important gap to consider.

    I do have one question – what are the follow up options for counselling for women who have had abortions in Korea? I’ve read a lot about the issue of abortion here, but not about support for women after they have gone through the procedure. And in her case, would the writer even want to find after-abortion support if a non judgemental and supportive option were available?


    1. Hello, I’m the writer and thank you for the support! I’ll try to answer the questions as best as I can.

      I also think that the married/unmarried status has a role to play in it, If you’re unmarried and getting an abortion, the feeling I got from the second doctor was that I was irresponsible to have intercourse at all(the first doctor was quite nice).

      I don’t think there is really a counsellor, as it’s a touchy subject-remember, unmarried women are not supposed to have sex- and because going to a counsellor automatically tells a third party that you’ve had an abortion. I’ve felt people watching me because they knew that I was going into a gynecologist-I think they’d stare more if they saw me enter a building w/ an abortion counselling clinic in it.

      For me I’ve talked quite a lot w/ my boyfriend, who sort of acted as a counsellor for me, but if I could find a non-judgemental and supportive counsellor to talk to, that would be great. It’s good to have this off my chest in my case and I suspect that it’ll be better if I had a real counsellor to talk to.

      Again, thanks for the support!


      1. Thank you so much for responding writer. I’m glad at least that you have had your boyfriend for comfort and support. I hope one day very soon unmarried women will be able to go for regular yearly health checks in addition to safe abortionswith the support of society, and that there will be more options for women (and men!) to help them deal with the after effects of making the decision to abort.


        1. Oh, this is just sth that I heard just now- since abortion is illegal, it’s also illegal to give counseling specifically for people who’ve undergone abortion, as that type of behavior shouldn’t exist. However, it’s possible to contact a psychiarist and get some counseling or go to those counselling centers for teens. But, “abortion counseling” centers don’t exist, as of yet.


  2. I also wanted to let readers know, that if there another option: , a charity group, based in Amsterdam, will mail you the medication required to terminate a fetus under 6 weeks. (Right now the website is down, but their charity’s main site I’m sure would be able to help.)

    The donation for the service is 70 euro.

    When I had my pregnancy scare, I emailed back and forth with them and they were very helpful and kind. I got my period (or miscarried) before I ordered, but everything seemed above board. Their service has been used in South Korea before with no issues.


  3. This is truly depressing to read, but thanks for putting it together.

    And given the Republican attacks on Planned Parenthood in America my home country is pretty much headed in the same direction. Women are incubators first, human beings second.


    1. No, thank you for the supportive comments!

      Sigh. Yes, it saddens me because…if you think logically, who’d know better than the mom as to whether she’s in a situation to have a child or not? If she’s in a situation where she’d consider abortion, which costs a lot both physically, psychologically and financially, isn’t it better to create an environment where she’d be able to raise the child successfully (which I think would be near impossible) or respect her opinion?

      People who are anti-abortion lost a lot of credibility in my eyes when I saw them advocating capital punishment. It just doesn’t make sense.

      For me I’d rather have a baby later when I have the means to take care of one and to raise one in a safe, stable environment, as it’s better for the baby’s well-being, rather than raising the baby myself.


      1. If you are pregnant, you already have a child. The abortion decision is if the child will live, or if the child will be killed.


  4. I’m so sorry this has happened to you and I don’t think a woman should be judged for having an abortion but I still consider abortion a murder. I think no one has the right to decide whether a person should live or not and I do consider a fetus a person although not developed yet. But I don’t like the hypocrisy in Korean society and I don’t think a woman should be judged for having sex or having an abortion. They better put more effort on proper sex education and try to remove the stigma put on an unmarried mother. And more people should be counselled, a pregnant woman needs help, maybe then she will not choose to make an abortion.
    I hope you will recover soon physically and mentally and I hope you will have your own children one day.


    1. We differ on whether a woman has the right to abort a fetus or not, which I think is okay-I can see why some people would look at it from that angle. But what I’m really thankful for is that you didn’t lecture me about it, as I think that if I were to say this in public, people who are pro-life would throw stones rather than comfort me like you did. It’s great to actually hear words of condolences from someone whose ideas differ from mine.

      Thank you so much.


  5. My heart breaks for you. I can understand the toughness of the decision and the anguish because I was there long ago. It was the most difficult decision I had ever made. My bf and I were both uni students at the time, and even tho we would have loved to start a family, we were just not ready emotionally and financially. I cried for days. No counselling, because even tho it was in the US and even though there wasn’t supposed to be a stigma attached, having to walk thru lines of protesters was too much for me. That was couple of decades ago. we eventually got married and we now have three wonderful kids. But the memory of the first baby never leaves me. Whenever I see my kids, the “what if’s” pop in… Still, I believe it was the right decision to make for me, for us. No matter what anyone says, it is between me, my unborn child and God. I will face His judgment when the time comes, but I will stand by my decision – whether the society deems it right or wrong. I sincerely wish you the best.


    1. First of all, thanks for sharing your story and for the support, I couldn’t have gotten one at a better time. I also believe that it’s my choice, as I was also certain that I wouldn’t be able to cope with the baby financially and emotionally and I reasoned that I would, as I said above, not be able to give him/her a very happy life. I didn’t cry but I was sort of frozen throughout the whole experience, I only cried once or twice. I guess I will one day look back and also think about the what-ifs, but I suppose it’s just a part of life that I have to live with. Thank you!


  6. I’m sorry the writer of this was put through all that. I can’t help remembering some serious arguements I had with guys from my old company. It was part of a chaebol and the guys had great educations, supposedly.
    1) They refused to believe that UK bars generally open at 11am (pub lunch everyday -what a nice place). “You only say that because you like to drink”.
    2) They refused to believe that cancer could be caused by something other than smoking i.e. 80+% of cervical cancer is caused by a virus (Human papillomavirus). The arguement started when I enquired if Korea had plans to vaccinate teenage girls against HPV. Bang my head against the wall…. even ancient egyptians got cancer. “No! cancer is only caused by smoking”.
    3) More to the point… after watching the abortion scene in “Sex is zero”. I asked if in Korea they still performed early pregnancy abortions by such an intrusive process and then happened to mention that in the UK you go to a doctor and he will give you a pill. Actually it requires 2 doctors signatures but they are not allowed to give you a moral point of view one way or another. In France they use 2 pills one Misoprostol and one mifepristone for up to 60 days of pregnancy.

    I remembered this because the writer was asked to go back to the hospital when the fetus was bigger – necessary for the intrusive process but not for the pill/s.


    1. Seriously? My little brother can give better answers to no. 1, 2 better than they can..sigh.

      Yes, I was told that they’ll *don’t read the rest if you don’t want to know the details* scrape the fetus from the walls of my womb and suck the rest through a vacuum-like thing. I did search whether there were pills or not but people’s responses to them were mostly negative, such as “Those pills can be harmful to the body-it’s what sex workers used in the old days.” I guess they were talking about different pills. Other then that I couldn’t really find anyone selling pills to abort fetuses, and someone mentioned that some people go to China or Japan to get those, and even then it’s dangerous as those pills are not reliable.


  7. The only safe-sex is absence. As a university student in your situation, you were extremely irresponsible. Glad to hear you were practicing “safe-sex”, however, if you are not in a position to be a parent, you shouldn’t be having sex period. I also find your excuses cowardly.

    Well, now you just have that memory of your “would-be-baby” chillin’ in a bowl. And the “What-If” will live with you for the rest of your life. We all make our beds, now you just gotta lay in yours.


    1. That was uncalled for Sammie.

      You’ll also find little sympathy for your opinions of no sex before being “in a position to be a parent” here. Moreover, the writer was far more responsible than the vast majority of abstinence pledgers who share your views, who not only almost invariably break their pledges, but don’t use contraception when they do because they decided they didn’t need sex education.

      Leave a comment like that again and you’ll be banned.


    2. That was completely unasked for, you’ve never been in my situation, my bet is that you’ve never been to Korea and know nothing about how society looks at single mothers. You think my excuses are cowardly? I find your inability to understand another person in a dire situation as chilling. I’m going to ask TGN to delete this comment.

      (James: The writer agrees with me that the comment should be left up, so that if Sammie leaves a comment like that again, everyone can see why I banned him or her)


  8. I empathize with the writer’s plight. When I was in college I was more worried about becoming a parent than catching an STD. This was based on (my selfishness) where I was in my life and where I hoped to be later. Children, at that time, would have derailed me dreams and limited what I could provide for the. Now that I have children I am thankful for them. But, we did decide that two was enough (so I got fixed).

    I might sound hypecritical but, when did having children become viewed as a burden and not a blessing? Many of my friends (mid-30s) say “IF I have children”, not when. And the arguments they give are almost solely financial based. Is this attitude a side-effect(?) of modernization?

    Yes, children are expensive.
    Yes, parenting is a lot of work.
    Yes, there is no how-to book.
    Yes, caring for your children will take the rest of your life.
    Yes, they are worth it.


    1. Well, I think it’s partly because in the old days, the cost of raising a child was lower than it is now. Like, for example, in Korea, the cost of education is really, really high what with all the hagwons and everything. You have to teach them English, Math, gah. The cost is overwhelming.


    2. Charles, my husband and I are childfree. We have absolutely no interest in having children. It’s not financial concerns. We just don’t want children. And I think people who don’t want to be parents shouldn’t be parents. The last thing the world needs is an unwanted child.

      It is often very difficult for parents to understand that we have no interest in having kids. (Actually, people tend to respond to my husband differently than me. If a man doesn’t want kids? Oh, that makes sense. If a woman doesn’t want kids, well, what’s wrong with her?)

      It does seem to me that the number of childfree (which I think is different than childless) couples is rising, but perhaps that’s because socially it’s becoming (slightly) more acceptable to tell the truth about not wanting to be a parent.


  9. Modernization may have some part in the discouragement of pregnancy and child rearing for many women & their partners today. Back when agriculture was the main source of living and economy, it was an advantage to have children – they brought harvest and helped house chores / jobs at an early age, even before becoming a teen (and not even paid, if it was for the family). However, with the laws of child protection and importance of education (mostly because of the dominance of service industry & business) it became less advantageous to have children — the parents have the burden of feeding, sheltering, caring, and paying for them without anything in return. Whatever the situation, both in the agricultural past and the modernized today’s society, child rearing is nonetheless laborious, difficult, and something to be very careful about.
    When women (& their partners) say that children are a burden and say things like “IF I have children,” it should be understood that they have thought about the child rearing process and made a logical argument that having children at the particular moment in their lifetime will be hard for them, and what is hard for them eventually comes back to the children; if the parents can’t afford it, it means they cannot support the children well enough, and the children in turn will be less fortunate than if the parents waited for another time to have children when they are more ready to raise another human being.
    Nobody really wants to raise a child who, they know, will be in an unfortunate situation because the parents decided just to have the baby without considering the consequences and effect of having one in a particular time in their lives.


    1. “Nobody really wants to raise a child who, they know, will be in an unfortunate situation because the parents decided just to have the baby without considering the consequences and effect of having one in a particular time in their lives.”

      I totally agree with this.


      1. I understand. This was my point of view when I was in college. At that time I wanted more opportunity for me. I knew someday I would have children. With a university degree I felt that I would be able to provide greater opportunities for my children as well.
        I think every generation hopes that the next generation will be more successful than they.

        @ thewriter – “If, at the time you make a decision, you think it is the right one, then it is.”


  10. Well, I am surprised no one looks at fetuses as alive human beings. I am all for equal rights between men and women and would never say that you should only have sex after marriage (thats ridiculous) but what about the rights of the unborn? Why is it ok to be killed? And it is wrong to kill a newly born baby but when exactly is the change? It’s not ok to have an abortion during the 7th month of pregnancy but why is it ok to do it during the second? When do you think the fetus becomes a human being? I believe this happens from the very beginning of his/her life.
    I want to emphasize again that I do not approve of making abortions a crime. I know it is very hard for women who have gone through this and there is no need to cause them more stress. But I don’t like thinking of abortion as a simple procedure, I don’t approve of taking it easy…
    I wasn’t a planned child nor was my brother (although my parents were both grown ups and ready for kids), we lived in times when almost everyone had a very difficult time financially in my country and life was tough even for planned kids (well, we’ve never been among the poorest). Everyone had to fight for their existence, there were electricity cuts for a few hours every day, food was scarce, there was hyper inflation… But still I am happy that I and my brother exist. What I mean is you never what life will put you through and you can’t plan everything. You can never know what will happen to your child no matter if he/she is wanted and/or planned. I just don’t think killing a human being is justified.
    I don’t want to make the writer feel bad, I would just like more people to see things from a different point of view. I am not religious (although I do believe God exists), I am not anti-feminist, I do believe in women rights, I am all for using contraception, I just believe in giving a person the right to live. I think abortion should be legal as there will always be women who want to do it no matter what so at least they should be able to do it with minimum risk but I think doctors should be able to refuse to make abortions if they don’t want to.


    1. For me the fetus didn’t feel like a real person as I count a real person as having had/ or have feelings, emotions, and so on. At the 6th week or pregnancy, the fetus’s brains haven’t really developed yet, nor their nerves, so hypothetically it wouldn’t (I call the fetus an it not because I’m being callous but because I don’t know whether it’s a girl or a boy yet) feel anything when it gets aborted. The reason why I believe that life doesn’t start at conception is because plenty of natural miscarriages happen at the first two months of pregnancy and most of the time the mother never realizes this. I think it’s a bit far-fetched to call all those women whose zygotes have died out of natural causes as murderers. I’m sorry to say this as it conflicts with your view, but that’s what I believe.
      I agree with your point that I would never know what will happen to the child, yet the statistics of the child living in a struggling home with a mother with doubtful chances of getting hired (there’s this documentary in Korea of a single mother who works in a donut store and the majority of the responses were like, wow, the manager’s so nice to let her work- I mean, it’s a freaking donut store, not some huge firm or something. BTW, research has shown that single mothers are the ones most discriminated against after homosexuals-which is extreme, I can show TGN the link if he wishes to view that find) is so high to an extent that I dare not risk the child living in such an environment. Yes, there’s this tiny tiny tiny slim chance that the child will turn out right. I mean, I was an unplanned child. Yet your parents were both grown up and ready for kids whereas I’m neither ready nor grown up and the society would actively discriminate against me AND the child. I’m not going to raise a child in that situation.


      1. Well, what about disabled people who don’t have emotions and feelings? Aren’t they human? Can they be just killed?
        And yes, many natural miscarriages happen but usually those are fetuses that just cannot survive, something’s so wrong with them that they just cannot live. Also there are people who die naturally every day due to different reasons, does it mean it’s ok to take their lives?If a child is healthy, it can grow.
        And where is the limit? So after the second month the fetus is already human? Can a woman kill her new born baby because there’s no chance for it to have a good life?
        I would never call a woman who commits an abortion a murderer. Well, I wish less and less women chose to have an abortion and I honestly wish abortion weren’t discussed along with women rights…


        1. Most diabled people do have emotions and feelings, please give me an example where there are people w/ no emotions and/or feelings. And no, miscarriages can happen for simple things such as intake of toxic substances to the mother not getting enouch rest or food. And there are cases where the fetus is healthy but should be removed because it attached itself not to the womb but in the fallopian tubes. I think the limit should be place in the first trimester where the baby doesn’t have a developed brain and nerve cells yet, so that it won’t feel pain.

          What about morning after pills then? At that stage it could kill a zygote. Is that murder? If we were to go that far, if a healthy egg and sperm cell met in the ideal circumstances it could potentially be a human being. Does that mean that, just because there is a chance of life happening, we should do away with condoms as well?

          I also feel that there should be a distinction here between fetuses and babies. Killing a fetus that doesn’t have brains or nerve cells yet aren’t the same as killing a baby, as at that stage of life it’s already developed feelings and pain that A FETUS DID NOT. I think you’re mistaking something here. One might argue that why not have the baby as it’s a human life and then give him/her up for adoption? Because the fact that you ARE pregnant “by yourself” contributes to huge sociological pressure.

          BTW you said that you’d never call a woman who underwent abortion as a murder but you keep on saying that a fetus is human. So what did a woman who underwent abortion do? Second degree homicide? That’s sort of contradictory, don’t you think?

          Finally, in an ideal world there would be lots of support for women who chose to have a baby so that they wouldn’t be shunned from society, that they would be able to have stable jobs, that there would be places where their babies could be taken good care of, and that there would be few or no abortions. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world, and although I understand why you wish there would be no woman who’d undergo abortion, the reality is that it’s hard for unmarried mothers to be a. not shunned from society and b. have stable jobs. I see it as a more of a rebellion against society who wouldn’t support such single-mother friendly rules. Until those conditions prevail, I’m sorry, but there’s going to be abortions and it’s going to be connected with women’s rights.


          1. I don’t call these women murderers as they go through something really hard and I think most of them will think about it all their lives. I don’t think they should be punished as they will get enough stress. i don’t wanna call them names but I know that if I ever did it I would never be able to forgive myself. I try to be as kind as possible.
            Morning after pills are different. They can prevent conception. But they are really harmful and have so many side effects and they should be only taken if really necessary.
            There are many people who wish to have a child but cannot. Maybe they should develop a system where pregnant women can get in touch with such couples and decide to let hem adopt the child.
            There are disabled people who have no feelings or even thoughts. They may have some very serious disorders. I met some of them because my friend had to stay in a hospital for mental diseases.
            Plus some of my friends were born like this – one of them was born when his mother was just 16. When I think they could be non existent now, it feels so scary. You never what a future human will become. One of the greatest peope in this went through so many difficulties their whole life. Its difficulties that make up character. I am also not a religious fanatic in any way but I think that if God decided a child should be born we cannot interfere. Everything in this world happens for a reason and we simply cannot plan all our life. Nor do we have the right to plan the life of an unborn person.
            And where I live most couple don’t marry anyway and half of the children born are out-of-wedlock and more and more people give up marriage so I don’t understand why you constantly talk about it. More and more people in Europe choose cohabitation over marriage and it doesn’t stop them from having children, I think it’s out of date to talk about married and unmarried couples and women as marriage loses its strength in modern society.


          2. Yeah, but those disabled peoplel still can feel pain because they have nerves. Fetuses in their early stage of development don’t.

            Uh..because although where you live, it may be seen as okay but here it’s not? I’m sorry, but you must know nothing about Korean society and how it views unmarried or very young mothers. I told you, there’s a documentary made in Korea that views the life of a single mother and she got a job at Dunkin donuts. And the overall response was that she was “lucky” to get a job and that the manager was “so nice to her.” If this doesn’t show you how our society views single mothers, I don’t know what will. Why do you think I got the comments from the doctor? I’ve only had sex w/ my boyfriend yet the doctor chose to view me as a woman who had a very promiscuous lifestyle. In your country yes it may be out of date but in our country, trust me, it’s not. Marriage losing its strength in modern society? Please. I live in a country where parents have a strong voice in choosing whom their children will marry.


          3. Besides, if everything in the world happens for a reason, maybe God wanted me to go through this abortion so that I’ll learn something in life. Personally, I don’t have a religion, so I think the God argument doesn’t apply to me, but yeah maybe this abortion happened for a reason. Who knows.


          4. This is an interesting point of view. Yes, everyone has the right to choose and nobody has the right to judge other people. And don’t you think the father of the child should also consent to the abortion? It’s his child as well after all.


          5. Rumi, either you’re incredibly naive, or you’re deliberately trolling. Either way, considering how comments on both this post and the next one are turning into personal attacks, and most of them provoked by your asinine comments, then to calm things down you’re henceforth banned from commenting on both posts. You’re free to comment on other posts, but if you discuss abortion etc. there also then you’ll be permanently banned from the site.


          6. Sigh. One last post-
            He consented, if you’ve read the entire article. I’m not going to go into more arguments with you as I find it frankly tiring. Let’s just say that we have different views and end with that.


          7. I know a lot about Korean society and I know it’s pretty conservative. I was talking about abortion in general, I know pretty well how Korean society works and I wish it wasn’t like that and women weren’t forced to have an abortion. I can only hope one day Korea will be as liberal as European countries.
            I Think I told you I never blamed you for having an abortion. I know it is a tough time for you now. I just don’t like thinking of abortion as a right for the women and I wanted to give the other point of view not very popular here. I think those little creatures also need protection and I would be happy if more people saw it like that. I think human life should be valued higher than money or career. Still, I blame the society for not valuing human life and happiness enough.


    2. It is my understanding that the medical cutoff for abortion (between the second and third trimesters) was selected because prior to the seventh month it is more likely that a premature baby will not survive birth at that early date/stage of devlopment. While we continue to make advances in medicine, the technology (and corresponding care required) isn’t available in order to keep every premature baby/fetus alive. Nor do we have (yet) the ability to remove a fetus from a womb and grow it in a laboratory.

      Your comment asks one of the age old questions, “when does [a] life begin?” I believe that until birth a fetus is a fetus and not a baby/person. You believe that conception is when life begins.

      A separate, but related, question in this discussion is “when is it okay to be selfish?” I think there is no single answer to this question. Keeping this related to this thread’s discussion I believe that it is okay for an abortion to have been selected because of the overall, long-term impact a baby would have had on the life of the writer, her boyfriend and the baby. While the writer’s decision is selfish in the short-term, it is not necessarily selfish in the long-term. In fact it was similar to waht I described in my earlier post:

      “This was based on (my selfishness) where I was in my life and where I hoped to be later. Children, at that time, would have derailed my dreams and limited what I could provide for them.”

      Yes, life is hard; very often you have to take whatever comes your way. But, you do not have to accept everything that comes your way. For example, just because you get a higher paying job offer in another city, does not mean you should take it. What if you don’t like the job? What about the effects on your children (change schools and friends)? What if your husband/wife cannot find a job in the new city?…


      1. Are you talking for the cutoff for a medical abortion (aka one achieved through oral medication) or just abortion as a medical proceedure? Because there is no specific cutoff for when abortion can be used as a medical proceedure beyond local laws and regulations, which vary by state, county, etc. or medical abortions (aka the kind from pills) have to be performed sometime before ten weeks to be effective. Surgical abortions can be performed fairly late into the pregnancy, although risks go up as the pregnancy progresses. Very few late-term (third trimester) abortions are performed, even in nations where they are legal, mostly because the primary reason for late term abortions are maternal health issues or fetal inviability.


    3. About this phrase – “But I don’t like thinking of abortion as a simple procedure, I don’t approve of taking it easy…” –
      I don’t think anybody takes abortion easy. It feels like many of those who oppose abortion think that women who get abortion just do it like it’s another pill to take,… no – many women, if not all, think hard about it, talk to people, consult with the physician, get help and advice from parents/friends/partners… it’s not an easy decision for people.

      Also, I wanted to point out that “…doctors should be able to refuse to make abortions if they don’t want to” is a problematic idea because if doctors were able to discriminate who they will treat based on what they think (their values, etc..), it would be very unfair. Who is to decide that person receives medical care/treatment and who doesn’t? If the doctor was allowed to refuse procedures on some women, can they refuse medications for other kinds of people? Can they say, “this person is a Jew, so I wouldn’t give them treatment because I don’t want to”?? Really, doctors are not moral judges, or any kind of judge, whatsoever.


      1. You don’t understand – I don’t mean the doctor should choose who to treat but I don’t think killing a fetus is a kind of treatment. It’s not that he judges her or tells her what to do, it’s that he/she DOES it, kills a baby and I think it’s not the same as prescribing a medicine for instance. If someone wants to commit a suicide should doctors help them? Let me remind the Hippocratic Oath:
        I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.
        Can the doctor choose who should live on? The doctor has become a doctor to help people not to harm them. If a doctor doesn’t want to harm the little baby inside, he/she should be able to say no.


        1. Echem . . . except the part of the Hippocratic Oath you’re referring to is generally ommitted nowadays. And the doctore is helping people by providing an abortion, which involves the removal of a fetus, not a “little baby.”


  11. Hey,

    I appreciate reading this as someone who went through a similar ordeal earlier this year with my boyfriend (also in Korea). At the time it happened I almost couldn’t believe that I was pregnant because it was that shocking. We decided like you did that the best thing was to get an abortion and so visited a hospital recommended by a friend. I didn’t really express any emotion during the whole process because I felt it was the best I could do at the time being nothing more than a student. It wasn’t until after I came out of the room that I broke down in tears, and I would like to say I’m better now but I still feel guilty when I see pregnant women or babies. It definitely wasn’t the easiest decision in my life.

    The doctor that initially performed the ultrasound on me was insisting to my boyfriend that we should just have the baby ‘since I was already pregnant’ and when we insisted to him that our situation didn’t allow us he finally gave in. However we were directed to another doctor would do the abortion (because the first doctor was Catholic) and there was no problem in the end. As far as I’ve been told, because of abortions being illegal you actually have to go to the hospital yourself and ask because they’ll deny that they perform abortions on the phone. A Korean-American friend of my boyfriend who was comfortable and kind enough to offer advice for my sake said that her mother had to actually beg a nurse over the phone to allow her daughter to have it. She said when she got to the hospital (her boyfriend did not come along) they treated her rather roughly and she cried. Thankfully the nurses at the place I went were very gentle and kind.

    Thanks for the post.


    1. *virtual hug* It’s great to see that you’ve met nurses who were kind and that you were able to undergo an abortion despite the initial resistance from the other doctor. For me it was similar as well, I was very shocked, my mind was sort of blank, and I’m trying to recover from the psychological trauma. I guess it never really goes away, but someday maybe I (and maybe you as well) would be able to come to toerms and put my mind at peace. I’m glad that you appreciated this post, as it’s heartwarming that other people can speak up and be comforted by this shared story. I understand all the hardships you went through and I hope that this never happens to you or me again.

      Cheers and much hugs,
      -the writer


  12. James: Here is the original image Gomushin Girl is referring to.

    One thing . . . I’m a little uncomfortable with you using the image of a woman curled up on a bed, apparently in distress as the first image for a post on abortion. While there’s all kinds of ways to interpret the picture (she’s upset because she found out she’s pregnant, she’s crying with relief, she’s in pain because of the physical effects of the procedure), I still think most people are going to take it as a woman in distress. Because of abortion.

    It’s problematic to represent abortions this way, since they reinforce the totally bogus idea that all women emotionally or physically suffer from abortions. Most women report relief as the major emotion they feel afterwards, not distress, and ties in with other visual choices that ultimately reinforce incorrect ideas about abortion in general . . .see also here:


      1. How’d I do? It was actually much harder choosing one than I thought (not helped by Sociological Images being down as I type this), as it was difficult to find a picture of a thoughtful woman that didn’t also look pensive, and like she was perhaps hiding something shameful (or at least, that’s what we’d project on to her because of the content of the post). Whereas if I chose a woman that looked too happy or relieved I ran the risk of making her choice look flippant and irresponsible, vindicating anti-abortion activists who often portray abortion simply as something, well, sluts do, “killing a life” simply because “they don’t want to interrupt their partying” (and so on).


  13. the writer, are you being translated or edited or is that your original English prose? If it is, your English must be about the best I’ve ever read from a Korean uni student. If you’re that bilingual now the world is your oyster. Try not to let this experience drag you down because you’ve come a hell of a long way if you’re a native Korean. Just be thankful that nothing went wrong. The best thing you could probably do is throw yourself back into your studies. You already have the English and intelligence to get a great job, and if worst came to absolutel worst you could always make $3,000+ / month as an English teacher. If that’s the worst that could happen just imagine the best.


      1. Uh…I am korean :) It’s just that I’m bilingual, because I’ve lived in Canada for a significant amount of time when I was little…. Sorry for the wrong impression, TGN. I should have cleared that up.

        Thank you for the support, Mr. Yu. Yes, nothing seems to be wrong with my womb or other parts, as there’s no signs of infection or anything, which is great.


        1. Really? I’ve lived in Canada a significant amount of time, too – around 27 years in fact.

          Seriously, if you’re a Korean citizen graduating from a Korean university you are years ahead of 99.9% of your peers in terms of English prose ability. There are students your age who would spend several years abroad and a good part of their parents’ retirement fund just to come close to the English level you have. There are PhDs in English literature who would be too embarrassed to communicate with you in English. When you graduate you’ll be eligible for graduate scholarships all over the world. There’s zero reason for you to worry about not succeeding. The only person who can fail you is you. There will be opportunities everywhere if only you’re confident enough to seek them.


          1. Thanks for the supportive comments. I’m trying to get back to my life & work on all the stuff that I’ve wanted to do. It’s been great to talk with all those people who replied to my post in a positive manner and it’s helped a lot on my confidence. I’d just like to say thanks one more time.


    1. and perhaps some posters shouldn’t be commenting? I mean, is there some kind of argument you’re trying to make here? Because right now it just looks like nonsense. You might as we’ll have written “many oysters are unsafe to eat” except that at least would make some kind of logical sense, and most of us could infer that maybe you were referring to the strong possibility of spoilage or being out of season.


      1. I would infer that maybe CS is arguing physicians should not lecture a patient as if she were unable to think and decide for herself, as experienced by the writer. Or CS is implying it is wrong for physicians to perform abortions.

        To the writer: Thank you for helping others by sharing your experience and your thoughts.
        I wish people could just respect other people’s decisions as long as they’re not obviously causing significantly more harm than good, and I don’t see how an abortion causes harm to anyone, especially as nobody gets involved against their will.

        To Rumi’s “where is the limit?”:
        I don’t think there’s a single “right” answer for determining a sensible legal time window to have an abortion. It may indeed seem very arbitrary and not make much sense to say a cell lump this old may be aborted but one week later it must not. But this absence of an obvious point during pregnancy for which it can be easily justified that a mother should have the right to decide about her fruit’s life before it but not after it – this absence does not mean that no line should be drawn at all, nor that it should be at an extreme point such as fertilization or birth. After all, we also use quite arbitrary lines for age of consent of age of majority that may rarely suit an individual’s gradual development, yet almost everybody accepts that there must be a line somewhere.


          1. Thanks again for the support, I wish other people thought the same way as you did :/ I’m currently going through a process of stabilizing my life and I hope that it’s as fruitful as it was before the incident :)


          2. I’m sure it will be, as Yu Bumsuk has already pointed out!

            By the way, I’ve never familiarized myself with the illegalization of abortions and related issues, but I’d still like to highly recommend watching 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days to interested readers, except perhaps those who have had an abortion themselves. It kept me hooked to the end.
            Women will always have abortions, legal or not. In the worst case, denying them the means to legally prevent or terminate a pregnancy may result in injuries and deaths from unsafe abortions. I’m afraid South Korea has taken a step in that direction, as enforcement means involved parties will reduce patient care to a minimum.


  14. James- it seems to me that not many people understand what it’s like to be an unmarried, young mother in Korea. I found an MBC documentary here that showed a single mother’s plight, although I find the overall tone to be overly hopeful.

    Also, here’s a column about the life of unmarried mothers. It said that the Ministry of health in the past has defined single mothers as: “‘학력이 대체로 낮고, 불안정한 직업에 종사한다. 자취나 하숙을 하고, 성에 대한 가치관이 개방적이고 충동적이다. 사회경제적 상태가 낮고 부모와 떨어져 사는 사람’이라고 과거 보건복지부가 운영하는 웹사이트 건강길라잡이는 미혼모에 대한 정의를 이렇게 내렸다.
    [출처] ‘동성애자’ 다음으로 차별 받는 집단 ‘미혼모’ |작성자 imomnews”
    which, for those of you who can’t read Korean, means that those with “Usually low levels of education, with an unstable job, usually lives by herself or in a boarding house, is promiscuous and impulsive about sex, lives apart from parents, and is place in the lower levels of society and economy.” The article goes on to say that this perception prevails even today, with 60% out of 2000 people viewing them as irresponsible and is the second-most discriminated group after homosexuals (and I don’t even want to go on to talk about how much homosexuals are discriminated against in Korea).

    There. Now you know the reality.


    1. It sure can be a cruel world for them but there are success stories, too. My high school’s student president last year had a single mother. She’s now studying business at PNU. I also have a middle school student whose parents were 16 and 18 when they had her. They’re still together, believe it or not (assuming he’s her real father and not step-father).


  15. Am I supposed to be sympathetic? I understand how hard it could have been if you had the baby. But isn’t that the consequence that you knew of when you had sex with your boyfriend? Did you not know that there is no 100% safe sex? You and your boyfriend had sex knowing that if something went “wrong” you guys would be responsible for a baby, right?
    The writer says that she didn’t believe that the fetus didn’t “feel” like a real person. Well, by 28 days, the fetus’ heart starts beating. At contraception, the embryo is genetically distinct from the mother. It clues me that it’s another being that’s formed. How do you know if it’s not feeling? At 8 weeks, changes in heart rate and fetal movement suggest that intrauterine manipulations are painful to the fetus. Yeah, you got the fetus aborted at 6 weeks but how do you know that feelings is the indication of beginning of life?
    Were you a 100% sure that the fetus was NOT “a real person”? The burden of proof should lie with the life-taker, and the benefit of the doubt should be with the life-saver. Put another way: “when in doubt, don’t.”

    Am I trying to make you feel guilty for murder? Yes, because you revealed your story out here, trying to justify yourself. The thing is there is no justification for what you did.
    Do you feel guilty of ending that life? Then don’t make the same mistake again.


    1. The argument that only people with the financial means and inclination to have children should have sex – lest the woman become pregnant – has already been mentioned in a previous comment, and will get little sympathy among readers of this blog.

      As for the burden of proof being with the “life-taker”, you’re in no position to demand what you would regard as proof. After all, not only do I strongly suspect it’s completely impossible to change your mind on this issue anyway, whatever justifications pro-choice supporters provide, but that the embryo is a life at all is clearly very much open to debate, thereby removing any justification you felt you had for the writer to prove anything.

      Oh, and you’re explicitly trying to make her feel guilty? That gets an instant ban.


      1. Oh and btw, although this post has been addressed-
        I hate it when I’m looked upon as a person who has not thought about this issue, bringtherain. You’ve got to understand that I’ve thought about it and made my OWN choices. Of course I was 100% sure, and guess what, even if I wasn’t I would have still gone through abortion as it’s either that or my life (and to a larger extent, the baby’s life that you seem to hold more precious than my own) falling into disrepair.

        And look! Even a wiki search will tell you that at 28 days, nothing that you’ve mentioned happens! It’s over here!

        Yes and I agree with James that whatever you’re going to say, you’ve made up your mind and that you’re not going to change your world view even if I asked the fetus itself and it somehow replied back.

        One last thing-you’ve got to try harder than that to make me feel guilty. Ta ta ’til next time.


    2. bringtherain, so you’ve never had sex outside marriage, then? Fertilised embryos are often discharged from the uterus without the woman even knowing. Save the ‘life-taking’ rhetoric for the abstinence club at church.


  16. From the opening of the article, I got the sense that it was written to help those who might find themselves in a similar situation and to also shed light on the abortion scene in SoKo — not for people to chime in and talk about how terrible abortion is, right? Anyway, I don’t have much to say except that your story iimpacted me in a way that was simultaneously pleasant and unpleasant. I felt like I would do the same thing if faced with the situation but for some reason I started crying when I thought about how difficult that decision must be when it comes down to the wire. Not that you need any reassurance but what you did was the right thing to do in your situation, not being ready for motherhood and all. I’m glad you shared your tale.


    1. Yes, it was mostly meant for people to share similar stories and stuff.. not for people to start talking about how I’ve killed a human and is now a murder. But oh well. :/ I did expect that something like this would happen but I didn’t know that it would be this bad.

      Thanks, it’s good to hear that from another person, and I’m happy to hear that you’re glad to hear my story. And yes, unlike what some commenters seem to think, it’s not a “oh well, I’ve gotten an unwanted pregnancy, must dash to the hospital because you know it’s not really alive tee hee” sort of situation. It requires a lot of guilt, thought, and reassurances.

      Thanks again for reading my story.


      1. I’d also like to chime in with thanks. Your writing was both informative and moving, and I greatly admire your willingness to tell it. Despite the awful comments, I hope you realize that many, many people have directly benefited from your openness and honesty here. They may not comment as openly as the people here opposing abortion, but I know your story will help many, many people.


    1. Contact me at instead please, and tell me the reason why. If it’s information about the abortion clinic etc. used by the author of this post though, please bear in mind that I can do no more than simply pass on her email address sorry, and unfortunately the clinic may no longer be there.

      (Sorry to sound so pessimistic)


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