Korea’s Change From Blue To Pink

JoongAng Daily on the shifting preferences of Korean parents towards having daughters rather than sons:

“Historically, Korea was a rigid male-dominated society on par with China. One of the seven faults of women during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) was not bearing a son, which was ground for divorce. In extreme cases, women were deserted by their husbands or mothers-in-law for not conceiving a son.

In the 1970s and 1980s, women often received underwear worn by women who had delivered sons from their mothers-in-law hoping for grandsons.

But figures and statistics support a drastic social shift: a majority of parents today want girls.”

I read and discussed this article with my morning advanced conversation students and was really surprised.  In my (admittedly limited) experience, younger Korean parents really didn’t care that much whether they had sons or daughters unlike the older generation, which was hellbent for a son (to the the point where if you didn’t have one it was formerly grounds for divorce).

What surprised me though (and yes, this is anecdotal but also the unanimous opinion of my class) is that in 2012 Koreans actually prefer daughters to sons.  One of the main reasons?  A son’s parents are expected to pay for his wedding and his first house, and with a stagnant economy and insane housing prices he actually can become a burden rather than a retirement-age asset.

Very complex and interesting stuff, including the fairly open secret that sex-selective abortions were once very common in South Korea (and obviously, in nearby China due to its single-child policy.)  I was shocked to find out that by law, a Korean OB/GYN cannot disclose the sex of a fetus until the 32nd week of pregnancy because of the fear that a woman (more than likely under pressure from her husband, parents, or in-laws) would get an abortion.

I didn’t realize the perceived “problem” of not having a son was once so severe here as recently as the 1980’s.

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