historic abortion rates in korea

on one of my posts about the gender imbalance issue in china and india (and other places), cinnamon asked about south korea. i replied that i didn’t know anything about gender imbalance in south korea — and i still don’t — but here’s a related story from back-in-the-day when everyone was worried about population control which, according to mara hvistendahl, is when sex selection abortions started to get out of hand. from hvistendahl in foreign policy:

“In South Korea, Western money enabled the creation of a fleet of mobile clinics — reconditioned U.S. Army ambulances donated by USAID and staffed by poorly trained workers and volunteers. Fieldworkers employed by the health ministry’s Bureau of Public Health were paid based on how many people they brought in for sterilizations and intrauterine device insertions, and some allege Korea’s mobile clinics later became the site of abortions as well. By the 1970s, recalls gynecologist Cho Young-youl, who was a medical student at the time, ‘there were agents going around the countryside to small towns and bringing women into the [mobile] clinics. That counted toward their pay. They brought the women regardless of whether they were pregnant.’ Non-pregnant women were sterilized. A pregnant woman met a worse fate, Cho says: ‘The agent would have her abort and then undergo tubal ligation.’ As Korea’s abortion rate skyrocketed, Sung-bong Hong and Christopher Tietze detailed its rise in the Population Council journal Studies in Family Planning. By 1977, they determined, doctors in Seoul were performing 2.75 abortions for every birth — the highest documented abortion rate in human history.”

east asians really like to do a thing thoroughly, don’t they?

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fixing the “bare branches” problem

from new scientist on trying to fix the “bare branches” problem in china:

“How great is the gender imbalance in China?

“In 2005, there were 32 million more men than women under the age of 20 in China. Young men with no prospect of marriage become a disruptive force in society. And with no one to marry, they will have no children and no one to take care of them when they are too old to work.

“Is the imbalance an unintended consequence of China’s one-child policy?

“Gender-selective abortions exacerbate the problem of dwindling birth rates. In China, a son is not just a source of pride, but a financial necessity. A daughter leaves home to join her husband’s family after marriage, so her parents have no one to care for them in their old age….

“How do you stop sex-selective abortion?

“In rural areas it is easier to enforce the rules as most doctors are government employees. The local Family Planning Commission official may monitor pregnancies to ensure that mothers do not abort for reasons other than a medical issue. In cities the policy is harder to enforce, and a black market for sonogram services has emerged.”

and here’s a little more background from the nyt from a few years ago:

“Surplus males: The dangers of Asia’s preference for sons”

“The most populous nations in Asia, including China, India and Pakistan, have acted upon their deep cultural preference for sons by culling daughters from their populations through the use of ever more efficient sex selective technologies….

“The technology to select male offspring before birth began to spread in the late 1980s, and the birth sex ratios began to rise. In China, the official ratio is 117 boys born for every 100 girls, but the reality is probably 120 or more. In India, the official birth sex ratio is 111-114 boys per 100 girls, but spot checks show ratios of up to 156 boys per 100 girls in some locales. For comparison, normal birth sex ratios are 105-107 boys born per 100 girls.

The mortality rate for girls and young women is also much higher than normal in these countries, further exacerbating the deficit. For example, the U.S. Bureau of the Census estimates excess deaths among Chinese females in the first year of life alone to be close to half a million. In India, almost one million more girls than boys die in the first five years of life….”

sounds like infanticide to me. here’s some more:

“Using conservative estimates, in 2020 India will have about 28 million more young males (aged 15 to 34) than young females. In China, the figure will be closer to 30 million; in Pakistan it will probably be 3-5 million.

“In China there is a term for such young men: guang gun-er, or ‘bare branches’ on the family tree — males who will probably not raise families of their own because the girls who should have grown up to become their wives fell victim to female infanticide.

The ‘bare branch’ populations in China and India, comprising about 12 to 15 percent of their young adult males, will be overwhelmingly poor, uneducated, unskilled and possibly unemployed. Throughout the millennia in which son preference has been effected in China, India and Pakistan, the bare branches have been one of the most volatile elements in society, frequently causing great social instability through crime and violence, and when uniting in a common movement, an important threat to the government itself.

“In Chinese history, for example, the Nien Rebellion, the Black Flag Army, the Boxers, the Eight Trigrams Rebellion and even the famous Shaolin fighting monks were all essentially bare-branch collectives doing what they did best: using force to acquire the resources otherwise denied them.

“The Nien, for example, came from an impoverished province where the sex ratio was 129 to 100. They began as petty bandits and smugglers, but soon coalesced into larger criminal brotherhoods. At the height of the rebellion, their leaders could boast of an army of more than 100,000 bare branches, which controlled an area populated by almost six million persons….

China is already experiencing a tremendous increase in crime, and 50 to 90 percent of the crimes in the large cities are committed by bare-branch migrants. Over the course of history, Chinese rulers’ response to the bare branches was to battle them, expel them or co-opt them as soldiers. All Chinese governments have understood that the bare branches are a formidable club — if it is in your hand it can be useful, but poised over your head it is a serious security threat.

“Indeed, the very type of government to which a nation can aspire is affected by a sex ratio abnormally favoring males. History demonstrates that such societies cannot be governed by anything less than an authoritarian political system. Furthermore, high-sex-ratio societies typically develop a foreign policy style crafted to retain the respect and allegiance of its bare branches — a swaggering, belligerent, provocative style….”

terrific.

previously: india and china’s missing girls and mara hvistendahl is a… and mara hvistendahl responds to dawkins

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