Ministry of Health and Welfare: “Unwed Mothers are Ignorant Whores”


What? It said that? In 2011??

No, hopefully not so recently, especially with the increasing criminalization of abortion since last year. But as you’ll soon see, the Ministry of Health and Welfare (보건복지부) certainly did once define unwed mothers as such, and I’d wager within at least the last decade.

It was just in 2008, for instance, that singer Ivy (아이비) was vilified in the media for the heinous crime of having sex with her boyfriend, so by those standards the Ministry’s comments were not particularly outlandish. And while Ivy did eventually rehabilitate her reputation, unfortunately Korean society is still far from accepting women being so sexually “open and impulsive”, let alone so blatantly so as to have a child out of wedlock.

Whatever the date though, when even the organization charged with helping unwed mothers once stigmatized them, then you can imagine how badly they fare in society today.

Despite that, abortion opponents seem to have quite a sanguine image of what it’s like to raise a child as a single mother. Which is what prompted this anonymous Korean woman, who kindly recently wrote on TGN about how and why she got an abortion, to post a link to this imomNews article outlining how the reality is anything but. With thanks to Marilyn for translating it, here it is in full:

(Update – To my shock and disappointment, the Ministry’s appalling definition was actually on its website until as recently as May 2010)

‘동성애자’ 다음으로 차별 받는 집단 ‘미혼모 / Unwed Mothers Most Discriminated Group after Homosexuals

인식 개선 선행…정부지원 확대 /[With] improvement in perception as precedent. . . expansion of government aid

Image Caption: 최근 정치권을 중심으로 ‘미혼모’ 지원방안이 활발히 이루어지고 있다. 지난 3일 서울 여의도 국회에서는 ‘미혼모 지원정책 개선방안’ 포럼이 개최됐다 /Currently, political methods for supporting unwed mothers are actively becoming reality.  On Aug. 3, at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, an “Unwed Mothers Support Measures Improvement” forum was held.

‘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.

“Usually low levels of education, with an unstable job. Lives by herself or in a boarding house, has open and impulsive sexual values.  A person whose socioeconomic situation is low, and who lives apart from her parents,” is how a website health guide operated by the past Ministry of Health and Welfare defined unwed mothers.

이처럼 사회의 부정적인 시선 탓에 미혼모에 대한 관심과 지원은 일부 사회복지시설을 제외하곤 전무후무한 것이 사실이었다.

Because of society’s negative views like these, it was true that, as for interest in and support for unwed mothers, a few social welfare facilities were the first and seemed like they would be the last.

특히, 1990년대 이후 정부와 시민단체 등의 노력으로 조손가정, 다문화 가정, 한부모 가정 등은 상당부분 인식개선이 이루어 졌으나 미혼모 가족만은 사회의 편견 속에 여전히 ‘눈총’의 대상이 되고 있다.

In particular, through the efforts of the government and civic organizations since the 1990s, perception of grandparent-grandchild families, multicultural families, and single-parent families has improved; among society’s prejudices, only unwed-mother families continue to be the target of stares.

때문에 형편이 좋지 않아 자립이 힘든 미혼모들은 자연히 입양을 생각하거나 권유받게 되고, 우리사회도 ‘낳아 기르는 쪽’ 보다는 입양을 암묵적으로 유도했다.

(I Came From Busan, 2009. Source)

Because of that, unwed mothers, whose circumstances are not good and so have difficulty supporting themselves, think of adoption of their own accord or are induced to adopt, and our society also implicitly supports the “have and raise side” less than it does adoption.

사정이 이렇다 보니 지난해 우리나라의 해외입양아는 미혼모의 자녀가 90%를 차지한 것으로 나타났다. 그러나 최근 이들에 대한 지원방안이 정치권과 시민단체, 기업 등을 중심으로 활발하게 논의되면서 미혼모 가족에 대한 관심이 일고 있다.

Because of this situation, last year it emerged that 90% of internationally adopted children from our country were the children of unwed mothers.  However, as ways to support them are currently being actively discussed in political circles, civic organizations, and businesses, interest in unwed-mother families is rising.

Image Caption: 던킨도너츠는 미혼모 정소향(21세) 씨를 정규사원으로 채용하면서 미혼모 채용에 적극 나서기로 했다 /By hiring unwed mother Jeong So-Hyang (21) as a permanent employee, Dunkin Donuts is actively taking a stand for the hiring of unwed mothers.

미혼모 인식 개선이 우선 / Improvement of perception of unwed mothers the priority

미혼모에게 가장 필요한 부분은 부정적인 사회의 시선이 관심과 보호의 시선으로 바뀌어야 하는 것이라고 전문가들은 지적했다.

Experts indicate that the most important thing unwed mothers must do is change negative societal views into feelings of interest and protection.

실제 지난 2009년 한국미혼모지원네트워크와 한국여성정책연구원이 실시한 ‘미혼모ㆍ부에 대한 한국인의 태도와 인식’ 설문조사에 따르면 미혼모는 동성애자 다음으로 가장 많은 차별을 경험한 집단으로 조사됐다.

In fact, according to the survey “Koreans’ attitudes toward and perception of unwed mothers and fathers,” carried out in 2009 by the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network and the Korean Women’s Development Institute, unwed mothers were found to be the group that experienced the most prejudice, after homosexuals.

또한 설문에 참가한 2,000명 중 60% 이상이 미혼모에 대해 ‘판단력과 책임감이 부족한 사람’이라고 답변했다.

Also, of the 2,000 people who participated in the survey, over 60% answered that unwed mothers “are people who lack judgment and a sense of responsibility.”

김혜영 한국여성정책연구원 연구위원은 “미혼모의 경우 일종의 일탈자로 낙인 받고 있다”며 “미혼 부모에 대한 과감한 지원정책이 필요하다”고 지적했다.

(Sources: left, top-right, bottom-right)

Kim Hye-young, a senior researcher at the Korean Women’s Development Institute, said, “An unwed mother is branded as a kind of deviant.  We need bold support policies for unwed parents.”

이영호 서울시 한부모가족지원센터장도 “우리사회는 다양한 가족이 있고 모든 가족은 행복할 권리가 있다”면서 “그러나 우리 사회에서 미혼모가 아기를 키우면서 자랑스럽게 또는 당당하게 양육의 경험을 공유하고 그 안에서 성장할 수 있을까란 의문이 들때가 많다”고 아쉬움을 드러냈다.

Lee Young-ho, head of the Seoul City Single Parent Family Support Center, also showed frustration:  “There are diverse families in our society, and all families have a right to be happy.  However, there are many times when I question whether unwed mothers, while raising their children, can proudly or confidently share their child-rearing experiences and develop in that [kind of environment], in our society.”

이에 최근 여성단체와 미혼모 보호 시설은 미혼모 인신 개선 사업을 적 극 펼치고 있다.

Accordingly, women’s organizations and unwed-mother shelters are currently actively engaging in a project to improve the perception of unwed mothers.

지난달 28일 서울시한부모가족지원센터와 20여 곳의 미혼모관련 단체들은 ‘미혼모지원단체협의체’를 발족하고 미혼모 인식 개선을 위한 다양한 논의를 시작했다.

On July 28, the Seoul City Single Parent Family Support Center and about twenty organizations for unwed mothers started the ‘Unwed Mother Support Organization Council” and began a variety of discussions designed to improve the perception of unwed mothers.

그 첫 번째 사업으로 사람들에게 부정적 이미지가 강했던 ‘미혼모’를 공모를 통해 ‘두리모’로 대체하기로 했다. 두리모란 ‘둥근’이라는 뜻과 둘이라는 숫자를 의미하는 방언 ‘둘레’가 조합된 것이다.

For their first project, they agreed through a public contest to replace “unwed mother”, which had a strong negative image, with “doo-ree mother.” “Doo-ree mother” combines the meaning “round” [doong-geun] with the regional dialect word dool-leh, which means “two people.”


정치권ㆍ기업, 미혼모 자립위해 노력 / Efforts by political groups, business for unwed mothers’ independence [ability to support themselves]

정치권에선 ‘미혼모 자립’을 위해 관련법을 정비하고, 토론회를 통해 다양한 의견을 청취하고 있다. 기업들도 미혼모를 우선 채용하는 등 이들의 자립을 위해 힘을 쏟고 있다.

Political groups are modifying laws in order for ‘independence for unwed mothers,’ and through panels, they are listening to diverse opinions.  Through actions like prioritizing hiring unwed mothers, businesses are also devoting themselves to the cause of their independence.

특히 민주당 최영희 의원(국회 여성가족위원회)은 미혼모에 대한 지원을 확대하는 내용을 담은 ‘입양촉진 및 절차에 관한 특례법 전부개정안’ 등 관련법을 최근 국회에 제출하는 등 법 만들기에 앞장서고 있다.

Democratic Party Assemblywoman Choi Young-hee (National Assembly Gender Equality and Family Committee), in particular, is leading the way in making laws, some of which are currently submitted to the National Assembly, like “Overall Revision Bill for the Special Act Relating to Promotion and Procedure of Adoption,” the contents of which expand support for unwed mothers.

또한 지난 3일에는 한국미혼모가족협회·한국여성정책연구원와 공동주최로 ‘미혼모 지원정책 개선방안’ 포럼을 개최했다.


Also, on June 3, the Korean Unwed Mother Families Association and the Korean Womens Development Institute co-hosted the “Unwed Mothers Support-Policy Improvement Measures” forum.

이날 최 의원은 “해외입양의 90%가 미혼모의  자녀라는 점은 우리 사회의 아픈 현실을 반영하는 것”이라며 “직접 양육하기를 원하는 미혼모가 늘어나고 있는 만큼 양육비 지원을 현실화 하고 지역사회에서 안정적인 생활을 할 수 있도록 정부의 적극적인 지원이 시급하다”고 지적했다.

On that day, Assemblywoman Choi said, “That 90% of international adoption is the children of unwed mothers reflects our society’s painful reality.  As the number of unwed mothers who want to raise their children themselves rises, the government’s active support is urgently needed to actualize aid for child-raising expenses for a stable life in a community.”

한편 이날 포럼에서 김혜영 한국여성정책연구원 박사는 ‘양육미혼모의 자립기반실태와 지원방안’에 대한 연구결과를 발표했다.

Also at this forum, Dr. Kim Hye-young, researcher at the Korean Women’s Development Institute, revealed the results of a study on the “Current State of Groundwork for Independence of and Ways to Support Unwed Mothers Raising Children.”

김 연구원은 “60%가 넘는 미혼모가 양육비와 교육비의 문제로 어려움을 겪고 있고, 80%이상은 월세와 같은 불안정적인 주거생활을 하는 것으로 나타났다”면서 “안정적인 자립기반 구축을 위해 미혼모 가족에 대한 조기 개입의 필요성과 함께 지원의 폭을 보다 확대할 필요가 있다”고 주장했다.

Dr. Kim said, “It showed that over 60% of unwed mothers are struggling because of the costs of child-rearing and education, and more than 80% live in unstable housing situations like [those requiring] monthly rent. In order to build stable foundations for independence, early intervention for unwed-mother families, together with an expansion of the range of support, is necessary.” (Source, right)

또 목경화 한국미혼모가족협회 대표도 “우리나라의 미혼모정책은 시설에만 초점이 맞춰져 있어 시설에서 벗어나 자립을 하려는 미혼모들은 빈곤 상황을 쉽게 개선하지 못하는 실정이다”고 지적했다.

Furthermore, Mok Gyeong-hwa, a representative from the Korean Unwed Mothers and Families Association, pointed out, “Policies regarding unwed mothers in our country only focus on facilities, so unwed mothers who want to break free from facilities and live independently can’t easily improve their state of poverty.”

최 의원은 이날 논의된 내용을 바탕으로 ‘한부모가족지원법 개정안’과 ‘국민기초생활보장법 개정안’을 제출할 예정이다.

Assemblywoman Choi will present the “Single-Parent Family Support Law Amendment” and “National Basic Living Security Law Amendment” based on the discussions of that day.

기업들도 미혼모 자립을 위해 적극적으로 나서고 있다. 던킨도너츠와 배스킨라빈스를 운영하는 비알코리아는 미혼모 시설인 사회복지법인 동방사회복지회와 함께 미혼모 고용지원 협약을 체결하고, 던킨도너츠 매장에서 파트타임으로 근무하던 미혼모 정소향(21세) 씨를 정식 사원을 채용했다

Businesses are also actively taking a stand for the independence of unwed mothers.  BR Korea, which operates Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robbins, together with the  Eastern Social Welfare Society, a welfare corporation that is an unwed mother [support] facility, signed the Unwed Mothers Employment Support Agreement and recruited unwed mother Jeong So-hyang (21), who had been a part-time employee at a Dunkin Donuts shop,  as a permanent employee.

June 16, 2011.

Reporter: Cheon Won-gi (천원기,

It’s Official: UNDP Says Korea Now Feminist Paradise (NOT April 1 Joke!)

(Source: unknown)

If there was only one statistic that best sums up contemporary Korean society, then that would be its “Gender Empowerment Measure” (GEM). Calculated by the UNDP, it is:

…an indicator of women’s degree of participation in political and economic activity and the policy-making process, using for its evaluation factors such as the number of female legislators, the percentage of women in senior official and managerial positions, the percentage of women in professional and technical positions, and the income differential between men and women (source).

Or, to put it graphically (see here for more details):

And why Korea’s GEM is so revealing is not just because of its abysmal ranking, which, at 68th out of 179 countries surveyed, is bested even by developing countries such as Kyrgyzstan, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, Vietnam, Moldova, Botswana, and Nicaragua. Rather, it’s because that rank is so out of sync with its other rank of 25 in the Human Development Index (HDI), which measures a country’s  standard of living. Surely, as I explained two years ago, there is no greater testament to the palpable gender apartheid here, than the fact that Korea does such a good job of educating and taking care of the health its citizens, only then to effectively exclude fully half of them from political and economic power?

(Source: unknown)

Mentioning this in a conference paper I’m writing on Korean girl groups however, as one does, earlier today my coauthor quite reasonably asked me if a more up to date ranking wasn’t available?

Alas, no. But there did appear to have been some recalculating of the 2008 figures done, with the first thing I saw from my search giving Korea a new ranking of, well, 20th best in the world:

Needless to say, I did a double-take. And indeed, as most of you have probably already guessed, actually the GEM has been abolished. Instead, Korea now has a ranking of 20 in what’s called the “Gender Inequality Index” (GII), calculated according to the following criteria:

What to take away from this? Well first, if I do say so myself, that it’s a pretty interesting thing to end up with, having originated from a paragraph that just one line earlier discusses Girls’ Generation’s signature hot pants.

But more seriously, I do want to stress the incredible achievements that Korea has made in terms of affordable, quality healthcare, well-illustrated by a recent anecdote from Ask a Korean! on a Korean stroke victim in New York, who quite rationally choose to fly 13 hours back to Korea rather than be treated in a hospital there. And it’s also indicative of how dangerous it can still be for women to give birth in many parts of the world, with 1 in 16 new mothers dying in Sub-Saharan Africa for instance, that the UNDP has good reason to think that the Maternal Mortality Ratio needs to be considered in any worldwide measure of gender inequality.

Nevertheless, while budding Canadian politicians, for example, are already taking advantage of their country’s new ranking behind Japan (yet another new paragon of feminist virtue) to say it’s all the government’s fault, it’s probably Korea jumping from 68th to 20th that should be getting the most attention. After all, albeit with apologies to long-term readers for the frequent mention, it does have: among the lowest female workforce participation rates in the OECD; the lowest rate of employment for educated women in the OECD (in fact, Korea is the only country in the OECD where the more educated the woman, the less likely she is to be employed); the largest gender wage gap in the OECD; only 13.7% of its legislators women; and a President that encouraged the mass firing of women to get over the latest financial crisis.


At the very least then, Korea’s example seriously questions the applicability of the GII to developed countries. But can readers can think of any other issues raised?


Sex and the University, Part 4: A Scared 19 Year-Old’s Ob-Gyn Experience

(Source: Dramabeans)

With thanks to Marilyn for translating it, allow me to present the fourth and final article in the Sex and the University series:

겁많은 스무살 기자의 산부인과 검진 체험기 / A scared 20 year-old reporter’s ob-gyn exam experience (19 in Western age)

대한산부인과학회는 지난 5월 ‘퍼플리본 캠페인’을 시작했다. 올해부터 매년 5월 셋째 주에 진행될 예정인 이 캠페인은 여성암 중 사망률 2위를 차지하고 있지만 비교적 잘 알려지지 않은 자궁경부암에 대해 알리고 검진율이 낮은 20~30대 여성들의 관심을 유도하기 위한 것이다. 김상운 사무총장은 “많은 여성질환들이 젊을 때부터 정기검진을 하면 예방효과가 크다”며 대학생들도 산부인과 검진을 받을 것을 권했다. 그러나 이러한 필요성에도 불구하고 많은 여대생들이 병원을 찾기를 꺼린다. 산부인과는 임신한 여성들만 찾는 다는 인식이 미혼 여성들로 하여금 산부인과 문턱을 넘는 일을 어렵게 만들기 때문이다.

Last May, the Korean Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology started the “purple ribbon” campaign.   This purposes of this campaign, planned to take place during the third week of May from this year [2010] on, are to raise awareness of cervical cancer, which, though the second deadliest of cancers that only affect women, is not well known, and to increase interest among women in their 20s and 30s, who rarely get screenings.  Secretary-general  Kim Sang-woon said, “If many female patients get regular screenings from a young age, there will be great preventative effects,” and recommended that university students get ob-gyn exams as well.  However, despite such necessity, many female college students are reluctant to visit a clinic.  This is because the belief that only pregnant women go there makes entering the ob-gyn’s office difficult for unmarried women.


이런 상황에 놓인 여대생들을 대표해 10학번 새내기 기자가 직접 산부인과를 방문해 검진을 받아보기로 했다. 미혼여성을 대상으로 한 가장 기본적인 검진은 초음파 검사와 혈액검사라고 한다. 기자는 인터넷을 통해 신촌의 산부인과를 수소문한 끝에 신촌역 근처 S산부인과로 결정했다. 방문 전 인터넷사이트의 예약 게시판에 평소 생리통이 심했던 기자의 고충을 적고 예약을 완료했다.

Representing college women put in this kind of situation, this freshman reporter, who entered university in 2010, agreed to personally visit an ob-gyn and get an exam.  It is said that the most basic exam for unmarried women is an ultrasound and a blood test.  After asking around about Sinchon-area obstetrician-gynecologists on the Internet, I chose ‘S’ Obstetrics-Gynecology, near Sinchon Station.  Before going, I wrote on the appointment board on the clinic’s website that my problem was severe menstrual pain and booked my appointment.

예약한 날짜가 다가와 초조한 마음으로 병원을 찾았다. 산부인과와의 인연은 20년 전 태어나며 맺었던 것이 마지막이라 그곳에서 무슨 일이 생길지 도무지 감이 잡히지 않았다. 잠시 기다리자 접수대에서 이름이 호명됐고 전문의와 오늘 받을 검진의 기본적인 사항에 대한 이야기를 나눴다. 혈액검사는 난소암 유무를 가리기 위한 것이고, 초음파 검사는 자궁에 근종이나 난소에 혹이 있는지를 알아보기 위한 것인데 항문 또는 질을 통해 검사한다고 했다. 검진 받는 여성의 성관계 여부에 따라 추가적인 암 검사가 더해진다. 그렇게 접수를 마치고 이유 모를 공포에 휩싸여 호명되기를 기다렸다. 내 나이 꽃다운 스무살, 산부인과에 있다는 사실만으로도 이미 부인과 질병에 걸려버린 느낌이라 불안감은 점점 더 증폭됐다 (source, below).

The appointment date approached and I went to the clinic with an anxious heart.  My last connection to the ob-gyn had been made when I was being born twenty years ago, so I had no clue what was about to happen there.   After waiting a moment, my name was called by the front desk and I talked with the specialist [prob. the doctor] about the basics of the exam I would receive that day.  The specialist said the blood test would detect ovarian cancer, and the ultrasound would check for uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts; the exam would be done through the anal passage or vagina.  Contingent upon the sexual activity of the woman receiving the exam, additional cancer screenings are added.   In that manner, I completed my registration and then, filled with fear without knowing why, I waited for my name to be called.  I am a 20-year-old in the bloom of youth, but just the fact that I was at the ob-gyn gave me the feeling that I already had a gynecological disease, and my discomfort continued to increase.

먼저 초음파 검사를 받기 위해 탈의실로 가 아래를 모두 벗고 발목까지 오는 긴 치마를 입었다. 두려운 마음으로 검진실 문을 열자 특이한 모양의 의자가 보였다. 치과 의자처럼 생겼는데 다리를 벌려 고정하는 받침대가 추가된 형태였다. 좋지 않은 예감이 든다. 예감적중, 간호사가 의자에 누워 다리를 벌리라고 한다. 겁에 질려 검사가 아프냐고 묻자 간호사는 태연하게 “불편할 수 있어요”라고 대답한다.

First, in order to get the ultrasound exam, I went to a changing room, took off all of my lower-body clothing and put on a long skirt that reached to my ankles.  Fearfully, I opened the exam room door and saw a specially-shaped chair.  It looked like a dentist’s chair but with the addition of a rack to which spread legs could be fastened.  I had a bad feeling about that.  My feeling was right – the nurse told me to lay down on the chair and spread my legs.  Scared, I asked if the exam would hurt; the nurse calmly answered, “It may be uncomfortable.”

이윽고 냉철한 표정의 여의사가 들어와 초음파 검사 도구를 항문에 집어넣는다. 간호사 말대로다. 아프지는 않지만 확실히 ‘불편’했다. 마치 배변을 보고 있는 듯한 느낌이 몰려왔다가 사라졌다. 윤활제를 바른 탓에 시원한 느낌이 들었다. 기분이 묘하다. 이 와중에 그나마 여의사라 다행이라는 생각을 한다.

(Sources: left, right)

Before long, the female doctor entered with a dispassionate expression and put the ultrasound exam instrument in my anal passage.  It was as the nurse had said.  It didn’t hurt, but it was certainly uncomfortable.  A strong feeling that I was about to have a bowel movement came and disappeared.   Because of the lubricant spread [on the instrument], there was a cool sensation.  I felt strange.  At that time, I thought it was at least fortunate that it was a woman doctor.

누워서 눈앞의 스크린을 보자 나의 자궁과 난소가 보인다. 혹이나 다른 이상은 발견되지 않았다. 스크린을 보던 의사가 “생리하실 때 아플 것처럼 생긴 자궁이네요”라고 말했다. 산부인과에 온 목적이 해결되는 감동적인 순간, 내 몸에는 전혀 이상이 없으며 단지 ‘자궁 모양’ 문제였음을 깨닫는다. 산부인과에 진작 왔으면 불안에 떨지 않아도 되었을 것을. 며칠 뒤에는 “난소암 혈액검사 결과, 정상입니다”라는 간략한 문자가 도착했다. 모든 검사 종료, 이제야 안도했다.


As I lay and looked at the screen in front of me, my cervix and ovaries were visible.  No cysts or other irregularities were detected.  The doctor, looking at the screen, said, “Your cervix looks like it would hurt during menstruation.”  At this emotional moment in which my purpose for coming to the ob-gyn was resolved, I realized that there was nothing wrong with my body, only a problem with “cervix shape.”  Also, that had I come to the ob-gyn earlier, I wouldn’t have needed to be anxious [about the pain].  A few days later, the brief text message, “Your ovarian cancer blood test results were normal” arrived.   At the end of all the exams, I finally felt relieved.

스무살 기자에게 산부인과 검사는 약간의 수치와 6만원이라는 비용을 수반한다는 점에서 그리 유쾌한 경험은 아니었다. 하지만 자신의 몸을 위해 한 번은 가볼 필요가 있는 것 같다. 기자의 경우 마침 결과가 좋아 적어도 5년 동안은 다시 이 경험을 하지 않아도 되겠다 싶어 안심했다. 그러나 부인과 질병에 가족력이 있거나 성관계 경험이 있을 경우 1년에 한 번씩은 산부인과에 가는 것이 좋다고 하니, 참고하면 되겠다.

Considering the slight shame and the 60,000 Won fee, the ob-gyn exam was not a very pleasant experience for this 20 year-old reporter.  However, it does seem that going once is necessary, for the sake of one’s body.  I felt relieved that I wouldn’t have to have this experience again for at least five years because the results happened to be good in my case.  Just know that if you have a family history of gynecological diseases or have sexual experience, though, they said that going to the ob-gyn once a year is good (end).


A little disappointed with the reporter’s plan not to lose her virginity in the next 5 year however, a genuine waste of one’s youth(!), then let me end on a rather more lecherous note via the above image, found in passing while preparing this post. Indeed, with a cover that says “Reasons Women Have To Get On Top“, the book sounds intriguing, and now I feel like doing some translating of my own next week!^^

(For more in the Sex and the University series, please see Parts 1-3 on students’ levels of sexual experience and activity, on an interview with a sex columnist, and on students’ cohabitation culture respectively)

Resisting the Criminalization of Abortion in South Korea

(Source: ImpAwards)

Lee Myung-bak may be able to avoid the issue of abortion in the remaining years of his presidency, but this successor certainly won’t. Like Lindsay Lohan says, some stories do indeed keep on growing.

Not so much because Koreans feel strongly about abortion itself though. Rather, because this is the same president that immediately tried to abolish the (then) Ministry of Gender Equality for instance, despite campaign promises not to. And also, because a year later, he encouraged targeting women for mass layoffs as a solution to the financial crisis. Criminalizing abortion simply in order to increase the birthrate rate then, is really part and parcel of a wider mentality that is fundamentally failing to get to grips with women’s entrenched inequality here. And perhaps could come be the symbol and/or catalyst for later volatile protests about any number of related issues, much like those in 2008 were never really simply about imported beef.

Until then, following on from this earlier post about a video that alerted me to the fact that doctors were getting (suspended) sentences for performing abortions, I’ve translated the following article to give you more information about those. And in the process, I’ve confirmed commenter Matt of Gusts of Popular Feeling’s point about it that no doctor mentioned actually had to spend any time in jail.

However, as you’ll see, the article does not appear to say that the manager of the gynecology clinic in Suwon also got a suspended sentence, which would presumably mean that in fact he or she at least did go to jail. Which seems just a little unfair and confusing, so if anyone with better Korean skills can please clarify, then that would be much appreciated!^^ (source, right)

잇따른낙태죄실형선고 부당해” “Continued Sentences for ‘Abortion Crimes’ are Unjust”

<임신․출산 결정권을 위한 네트워크>규탄성명 발표 / A Public Denouncement by The Network for Pregnancy & Birth Decision Rights (NPBDR)

최근 들어 인공임신중절을 시술한 의사에게 실형이 선고되는 사례가 잇따르자 이에 대한 비판의 목소리가 커지고 있다. 이례적인 처벌 강화가 인공임신중절 시술의 위축을 가져와 여성들의 안전과 건강을 위협할 것이라는 우려에서다.

Recently, criticism has been growing of the numbers of doctors receiving sentences for performing abortions. There is a great deal of worry and anxiety that singling out abortion laws for enforcement will reduce the number of abortions and be dangerous for women’s safety and health.

‘임신중절’ 시술 의사에게 실형판결 잇따라 / Doctors are continually being sentenced for performing abortions

지난 9월 3일 울산지방법원은 인공임신중절을 시술한 의사에게 1심에서 징역 6월에 집행유예 1년, 자격정지 1년을 선고했다. 이에 앞서 지난 8월 수원지방법원은 역시 인공임신중절 시술 혐의로 고발된 산부인과 의사와 사무장에게 각각 징역 1년에 집행유예 2년, 징역 2년 6월의 실형을 선고했다.

On the 3rd of September, in the first session of a case at Ulsan District Court, a doctor who performed an abortion was given a 6-month jail sentence suspended for 1 year (i.e. no jail), and was stripped of their doctor’s license for 1 year. And in August at Suwon District Court, a gynecologist who was suspected of performing an abortion and the gynecology clinic manager were given a 1 year sentence suspended for 2 years and a 2 year, 6 month jail sentence respectively.

이는 그동안 인공임신중절에 대한 기소 건수 자체가 적었고, 기소되더라도 선고유예에 그치는 경우가 대부분이었던 것과 비교해 이례적이라는 평가다. (source, right)

Even though the number of cases of doctors that have received sentences for performing abortions is small, and most have received suspended sentences, compared with those the above cases are quite exceptional.

올해 2월 프로라이프의사회가 인공임신중절 시술을 한 의료기관 3곳을 고발했을 때에도 사무장이 구속 기소된 한 곳을 제외하고 각각 벌금 200만원에 약식기소, 무혐의 처리를 받았을 뿐이다.

In February, a pro-life doctor’s association filed suits against 3 clinics where abortions were being performed, but in all but one the managers simply to had to pay fines of 2 million won each in out of court settlements.

또 한 지난 5월에는 부산지방법원에서 임신 7주의 여성에게 인공임신중절을 시술한 혐의로 기소된 의사에 대해서도 선고유예판결을 내렸다. 당시 재판관은 “낙태에 대한 처벌과 관련해 공권력의 처벌의지가 상대적으로 미약했던”사실에 비춰 “의사에 대한 처벌은 형평성에 어긋난다”고 선고유예의 이유를 밝혔다.

In May, at Busan District Court, a doctor who was suspected of performing an abortion on a woman who was 7 weeks pregnant received a suspended sentence. In that case, the judge said in his or her judgment that “the government’s will for punishing abortion-related crimes is relatively weak”, and that the reason for the suspended sentence in that case was that “the [prescribed] punishment ran counter to notions of social equity”.

의사에게 징역형을 선고한 울산지방법원의 김정민 재판관이 “태아의 생명은 사람의 생명과 마찬가지로 형법이 보호하고자 하는 매우 중요한 법익”이라며 “형법의 비추에 피고인의 범행은 그 죄질이 가볍다고 볼 수 없”다고 선고 이유를 밝힌 것과 대조적이다.

In complete contrast, Kim Jeong-min, the judge who gave the jail sentence to the manager in Ulsan, said the reason was that “a fetus’s life is exactly the same a person’s life, and deserves the full benefit and protection of the law”, and hence “the defendant’s crime could not be punished lightly”.

(Source: 착선의 독서실)

“징역형 선고, 중절수술 위축시킬 것” “With Sentences, the Number of Abortions Will Go Down”

특히 9월 울산지방법원의 판결은 임신 10주의 ‘초기낙태’와 ‘10대여성의 낙태’에 대해 징역형을 선고한 것이어서 판결이 던진 파장이 심상치 않다. ‘의학적으로 시술이 안전한’ 12주 미만의 인공임신중절은 이미 많은 국가에서 합법화되어 있으며, 10대 임신의 경우에도 현실적으로 양육의 어려움이 있어 사실상 임신중절 허용사유로 용인되어 왔기 때문이다.

In particular, the September case in Ulsan has generated a lot of controversy because the doctor’s sentence was for an abortion performed on a teenage girl who was 10 weeks pregnant. After all, not only is abortion in the first trimester completely safe and legal in many countries, but the general consensus is that such young girls have special difficulties in raising a child.

이 판결에 대해 <임신․출산 결정권을 위한 네트워크>는 29일 “여성의 결정권을 원천적으로 부정하는” 판결이라며 규탄성명을 내고, 항소심에 적극 대응할 것을 천명하고 나섰다. 임신․출산 결정권을 위한 네트워크는 인공임신중절을 범죄화하는 움직임에 대응하기 위해 결성된 단체로서, 여성·노동·진보 단체들과 진보신당, 민주노동당이 함께 참여하고 있다.

< 임신․출산 결정권을 위한 네트워크>는 잇따른 “징역형 선고가 선례가 돼 올해 2~3월처럼 낙태 수술이 위축돼 낙태 수술비가 치솟고, 낙태를 필요로 하는 여성들이 심각한 어려움에 처하게 될 것”이라고 심각한 우려를 표했다.

On the 29th of September, the NPBDR denounced that judgment as “fundamentally denying women’s rights” and that the group would actively appeal it. The NPBDR is an organization that was established to fight against the criminalization of abortion in conjunction with women’s groups, worker’s groups, progressive groups and the New Progressive and Democratic Labor Party. In addition, the NPBDR expressed serious worry about the “continuing cases of sentencing for abortions, which like those cases in February and March set precedents, and were accompanied by decreases in the numbers of abortions and a sudden rise in their expenses, which became a serious concern for women seeking abortions.”


실제로 올해 2월 프로라이프 의사회의 산부인과 고발 후, 산부인과의 임신중절 시술 기피로 인해 고통을 호소하는 상담전화가 여성단체에 빗발쳤다. 시술비용이 치솟았고, 비싼 수술비와 처벌에 대한 두려움 때문에 ‘원정낙태’를 알아보는 여성들까지 나타났었다.

After a pro-life doctor’s group filed suit against gynecologists in February, the reality was that they started avoiding providing abortion services, leading to a torrent of pleads for help from women to women’s groups’ hotlines. Because of the sudden increase in their expenses, and the fear of being punished, many women are now considering getting abortions overseas.

‘임신중절 허용’ 법 개정 움직임에 역행 Such Judgments Work Against Abortion Law Reform

< 임신․출산 결정권을 위한 네트워크>는 특히 “여성운동이 여성의 요청에 의한 낙태를 허용하라는 목소리를 높이고 있고, 한나라당 홍일표 의원, 산부인과의사회, 법무부 형사법개정특별심의위원회 등도 제한적이나마 낙태를 허용하는 방향의 법 개정을 주장”하고 있는 상황에서 이런 판결이 나온 것에 대해 깊은 유감을 나타냈다.

The NPBDR, deeply saddened by the above cases, says “women’s movements and women in general are raising their voices high in their demands for legalizing abortion, and have the support of National Assemblyman Hong Il-pyeo of the ruling Grand National Party, gynecologists’ groups, and the Special Committee for the Reform of Criminal Law under the Ministry of Justice, and so on, that, although they only have limited political power, are also insisting on the legalization of abortion.”

“낙태가 불법화된 나라들이 합법화된 나라들보다 낙태율이 오히려 더 높”은 것에서도 드러나듯, “처벌이 결코 낙태를 줄일 수 없다”는 사실에 대해 이미 국제사회뿐만 아니라 우리나라에서도 공감대가 확산되고 있는 시점에서 시대착오적인 판결이라는 것이다. 현재 국제사회에서는 유엔 여성차별철폐협약(CEDAW)에 근거해 인공임신중절한 여성을 처벌하는 ‘낙태죄’ 폐지를 각국에 권고하고 있다.

Also, “compared to countries where abortion is legal, in fact abortion rates are higher in countries that have criminalized it,” and this means that “criminalizing abortions can never bring abortion rates down,” a fact that at this point in time not just international society, but Koreans also agree on, and so find the above judgments an anachronism. Presently, on the basis of the Convention on the U.N. Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), international society is recommending each country to abolish laws defining abortion as a crime and not punishing women who have abortions. (source, right)

< 임신․출산 결정권을 위한 네트워크>는 “출산은 여성의 삶 전체에 지대한 영향”을 미치고 “출산에 뒤따르는 책임을 감당할 당사자도 여성”이라는 점을 환기시키며 “자신의 삶에 대해 신중하게 고민하고 낙태를 결정한 여성을 범죄자 취급해서는 안 된다”고 못 박았다. 또한 앞으로 있을 항소심에 대한 구체적 대응을 준비 중에 있다고 덧붙였다.

Finally, the NPBDR wants to remind everyone that “giving birth is the single most influential thing in a woman’s whole life,” and is accompanied by a great deal of anxiety about how and if she will be able to cope with her new role as a mother. The group firmly insisted that “accordingly women who have agonized over this and come to the final decision to have an abortion should not be treated like criminals,” and added that they were making strenuous efforts to prepare to fight for their appeal against the Suwon judgment (end).

And on that note, apologies for not finding any information about the woman fined for simply planning an abortion, as mentioned in the earlier post, and I’ll keep looking. But in the meantime, I was very happy to read about the palpable resistance to Lee Myung-bak’s anti-abortion drive that is already emerging!

How about you?

Newsflash: Korean Doctor Sent to Jail for Performing Abortion, Korean Woman Fined for Planning to Have One

( Source: Dramabeans )

Yes, those really did happen in the last couple of months.

Perhaps it was naive of me to be so shocked and surprised however? After all, according to the Korea Herald, “about 30 [doctors] have been brought to the court over the past 5 years, mostly resulting in probation or fines”, so presumably this latest case technically isn’t the first time a Korean doctor has been incarcerated for performing an abortion (for 1 year, with probation for 2 years). And then the Lee Myung-bak Administration did signal it would begin enforcing Korea’s long-ignored abortion laws over a year ago too, in a vain and wholly misguided effort to increase the record-low birthrate, so prosecutions had to emerge sooner or later.

Still, I’d be surprised if this wasn’t the first time a pregnant woman has been fined for just planning an abortion, and according to the law she could even face having her baby in jail herself if she tries again. And the fact that she was charged as a result of her husband informing the police? It sounds positively Dickensian.

Seriously, is he physically confining her to their home as I type this? Is she still allowed to divorce him, or has she been stripped of that right too?

My second surprise was that, yet again, I didn’t actually learn of this important news via any English-language media, but rather via the following humble-looking video passed on to me by a Facebook friend, who in turn found it via her friend Heejung Paik of Gwangju Womenlink (광주여성민우회). Simply a very brief overview of Korean’s draconian abortion laws in the global context rather than a discussion of the cases themselves though, I’ve just translated those parts relevant to Korea below:

From 0:21-0:39:

2010년 3월, 멕시코 165명의 여성 낙태로 수감중

멕시코 구아나후아토주 여성, 최대 35년형 낙태로 선고

2010년 9월, 한국의사 낙태시술로 징역 1년 선고

In March of 2010, in Mexico 165 women were incarcerated for having abortions.

One of those women, in the state of Guanajuato, got the maximum sentence of 35 years.

In September of 2010, a Korean doctor was sentenced to 1 year in jail for performing an abortion.

Next, two visuals from 1:04-1:20 (apologies for the poor quality):

On the left:

Estimated number of abortions performed annually (in brackets, the number of 15-44 year-old women out of 1000 that had abortions)

Married: 198,000 (28.6/1000)

Unmarried: 144,000 (31.6/1000)

Source: Ministry of Welfare and Family Affairs (2005; now defunct)

On the right:

Out of 342,433 abortions,  4.4% (or 14,939) were legal, and 95.6% (or 327,494) were illegal.

Estimation based on 2005 survey of 201 abortion clinics, and 2004 health insurance records of legal abortions.

Source: Ministry of Social Welfare

From 1:50-1:58:

유교적인 조선시대에서조차 낙태한 여성이 처벌받은 기록이 없다

Even in the Confucian Joseon Dynasty there is no record of any punishment for abortion

( Source )

From 2:17-2:35:

강간, 근친 상간 또는 임부의 건강 보호를 이유로만 낙태가 가능한 나라 (멕시코, 브라질, 수단, 대한민국 등 17개국)

한국보다 낮은 등급의 국가는 전체의 약 27%에 불과하며,

이란, 아프가니스탄, 리비아 등의 국가가 속해있다.

현재 OECD 국가 20개 중 한국보다 낙태시술이 어려운 나라는 단  2개국뿐이다.

There are 17 countries that allow abortion only in the case of rape, incest and if the health of mother is threatened (Mexico, Brazil, Sudan, South Korea, and so on)

Altogether, only 27% of countries provide less abortion rights than Korea, including Iran, Afghanistan, and Libya.

At present, out of the 20 countries in the OECD, there are only 2 in which it is more difficult to obtain an abortion than Korea.

Finally, from 3:09-3:16:

2010년 10월, 한국에서는 낙태를 한 여성이 남편의 고발로 검찰에 기소되어 벌금형을 선고 받았다.

In October 2010, a Korean woman was fined after her husband informed the police of her intention to have an abortion.

( Source )

And on that note, apologies for not providing details about the cases myself in this post, but as I finishing typing this at 1:30am (albeit with a final edit over a coffee 9 hours later) then my translations of Korean articles on those will have to wait until later this weekend sometime next week I’m afraid. Hence the “newsflash” in the title!

Until then though, is anyone aware of any English-language articles on them that I may have missed? And how do you personally feel about the news?


Korean Women Angry at Being Promoted Less Than Men

Gender Gap Angry Woman(Source:,via studio tdes)

A snapshot of some of the different forms of sexual discrimination experienced at Korean workplaces, from the January 15 edition of Metro Busan:

Women Workers’ “Promotion Grief” is Big

71% Say “Compared to Men, Promotions Come Late and with Limits”…54% Say “We Feel Inhibited From Asking for Maternity Leave”

A survey of women workers has revealed that when it comes to promotion, they still feel that they suffer from sexual discrimination.

The results of a survey of 1623 women workers by job portal site JobKorea, released on the 14th, showed that 71.4% believed that the promotion systems at their companies placed women at a disadvantage.

Asked for more information about this discrimination, 40.4% [of the 1623 women] said that “compared to men that enter the company at the same time, women have to wait longer to get promoted,” and 38.3% added that “women are excluded from some higher positions.”

In addition, 35.9% mentioned that “if we take maternity leave or time off before and after giving birth, we get lower scores on our evaluations by the personnel department,” 29% that “even if we have the same ability and practical know-how as men, we get lower scores,” and 21.8% that women simply are excluded from certain kinds of jobs.

Also, 54.7% replied that they found it very difficult to ask their superiors or coworkers for time off for childbirth, 15.8% said that they felt pressure to quit their jobs after having a baby, and finally 8.6% were aware of cases where recent mothers were indeed forced to quit. (end)

With no information given about the methodology used, then all those results should be taken with a grain of salt unfortunately.

In particular, considering that it is still common practice to fire women upon marriage, then that last figure sounds rather low to me. Also, consider that before the current economic crisis, not only did Korea already have one of the lowest women’s workforce participation rates (and the highest wage gap) in the OECD, but that those few that did work formed a disproportionate number of irregular workers. This ensured that they would be laid-off en masse last year (see #15 here also), and they are unlikely to return to work soon given Korea’s jobless recovery.

(In stark contrast, the decline in the construction industry in the US, for instance, means that for the first time in history actually more women work than men there now.)

Meanwhile, the effects of all the above on Korea’s low birthrate have also been somewhat predictable, now the world’s lowest for the third year running. But never fear, for the Korean Broadcasting Advertising Corporation (KOBACO) is on the case:

(See here {Korean} for more on the making of the campaign)

In KOBACO’s defense, the first women featured does actually have a job. Is it churlish of me to point out that she still goes home early to cook while her husband burns the midnight oil…?

Update 1: Lest the commercial not succeed though, then the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs (보건복지가족부), in charge of raising the country’s birthrate, is insisting that its employees go home at 7:30 pm on the third Wednesday of each month, all the better to have sex with their partners and have more babies.

No, unfortunately I’m not making that up.

Update 2: This satire of that is so good, it’s difficult not to believe that it’s the real thing!

The Grand Narrative in TIME Magazine

Going Down David Smeaton(Going Down by David Smeaton; used with permission)

For the article in full, on Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon’s “Happy Women, Happy Seoul” plan involving more women’s toilets and the notorious pink parking spaces, see here. Meanwhile, for readers coming from there, see #2 here for the specific quote of Lee Myung-bak’s for which the blog was mentioned, and #2 here for more information on Korea’s disproportionately low Gender Empowerment Measure.

I would also add—with no offense to reporter Veronica Zaragovia, who necessarily had to omit most of what was said in our interview—that the argument that “the plan may end up reasserting South Korean women’s secondary status more than boosting it” is also one that I made in our phone conversation. I based it on the knowledge that the pink parking spaces were made wider in order to better accommodate loading and unloading pushchairs and so on (see #3 here), which had reminded me of this post from Sociological Images about the images in our daily lives that serve to subtly reaffirm the notion that childcare is primarily women’s responsibility. In that vein, while the extra space may well be appreciated by mothers, consider that if I were to park in one of those spaces myself, with just as pressing a need for the space to deal with my two young daughters in the back as my wife would have, then as a man I would be likely either be fined or shooed away.

I grant you, it sounds innocuous. But place that into the context of Korean women having the lowest workforce participation rate in the OECD, the result of a combination of a lack of childcare facilities and an enduring male-breadwinner mentality that forces a stark choice between motherhood or a career, then the underlying sexist logic becomes apparent. Moreover, with Korea in turn having the lowest birthrate in the world, the economic effects of which will be felt soon, then one might reasonably ask if the money could have been better spent.

p.s. Apologies in advance for some light blogging this week; I have a conference presentation to give this weekend.

Update, January 19 2010: See The JoongAng Daily here for all the ways in which programs like this have been considerably expanded since this post was written, now including pink spaces for women at bus stops, on buses, in parking lots and special pink taxis under the rubric of improving women’s safety (via: The Marmot’s Hole).