Those of you in the ROK and in the know might know that there is a crackdown on abortion right now.
Huh? Well, what was the state of things before, you ask? Well, the way of things has been that abortion is nominally illegal, like many things in Korea, but de facto legal in that it's easy to get done. Reputable clinics and doctors perform clinical abortions, and you just do it. And the unrecorded rates of Korean women who use it as retro-active birth control is sky-high. Surely, one of the reasons so few Koreans use condoms here.
And yes, precisely because Koreans have a collective mental block and inability to talk frankly about the sex most adults are already having, it must also be said, in order to lay out the nature of things here, that condom use is FROWNED upon in Korea. Sure, a few -- a very few -- might insist on using one, but it's generally considered a near-insult to even ask, as if you were saying, "You seem like one of the dirty THOSE who might 'have AIDS' or some disease. So I want to use a condom."
If you're a girl and ask for one, you're implying you're a slut because that means you obviously have enough experience and partners to worry about it, and it's a reflection of what you apparently think about the ethical and physical cleanliness of the man.
If you're a man, you are casting suspicion upon her potentially problematic poontang, and/or are obviously a "playboy." If you are a truly up-and-up guy, you'll be "clean" and won't pose a threat. Only "dirty" people get STD's.
And the question of getting pregnant? Well, whatever you think of the matter, the fact is that it's been historically easy to get, and in the Korean way of (non)dealing with sex and contraception in a responsible manner, the only barrier between being a boyfriend and a baby-daddy. Or the difference between a woman with a little secret (to add to the other 1,000 skeleton bones stacked in the closet) and being a baby-momma and being socially ostracized and remaining a ruined woman for life.
So, abortion, for better or worse, is a major means of contraception. Well, put more accurately, in Korea, abortion is the only consistent barrier between being a campus couple or a shotgun wedding. Other than luck, pulling out, or trying to plan around her cycle -- none of which are techniques that are considered reliable means of birth control.
Generally, in other countries, condom use is default. Here, as many expat men and women have come to find, MANY Koreans will REFUSE sex if a condom is insisted upon. Especially Korean men, they insist on barebacking because of the better feel. Well, no one will deny that barebacking is better than wearing a Jimmy hat, not in terms of raw feel -- but in terms of the relatively higher risk being worth it, to most westerners I know, it's a dealbreaker. Again, in Korea, you have to understand that USING a condom is often a dealbreaker.
Now, super-proud-Koreans-who-think-such-talk-is-an-insult-to-the-pride-of-the-nation, first of all, it isn't. It's reality. And for those of you who insist that Koreans-are-all-innocent-and-still-live-the-ideals-of-Joseon-virtue, you aren't. Shit -- Koreans were fucking even back in them hanbok-covered days. And this information and basic knowledge about Koreans under the sheets is WELL-KNOWN by anyone sticking someone regularly or getting stuck. If you don't know nothing about it, Korean or not, you're obviously not getting any and don't qualify for commentary here, anyway. That is, again, if you actually believe Koreans aren't fucking just as much as people in Western countries.
But in modern Korea, which only started selling condoms NOT in a pharmacy like 10 years ago, where a woman can't have a reasonable conversation about birth control with her best female friends, where people actually thought that ONLY MARRIED WOMEN would ever have a reason to use a tampon and doing so means she's a whore -- it's hard to have a reasonable conversation about sex, let alone the issue that now comes along with it.
The LOW BIRTH RATE.
Nowadays, the government is conducting a crackdown on clinics and doctors that actually has people -- doctors and clincs -- running scared. The ostensive reason for the crackdown is the low birth rate. How can we, as a nation, have so many abortions, but the lowest birthrate in the world?
Now, Americans, take your America-centric mind out of this for a moment. In the US, the abortion battle is a moral one. It's about right vs. wrong, Christians vs. non, left vs. right. It is a battle that goes all the way to our crazy, Puritanical roots, Ruth Benedict's characterization of America as a "guilt culture" vs. one of "shame," all that shit. Although argued in these terms, the battle is about MORALITY, not medicine, human rights, or necessarily, religion. These are aspects to the battle, but it isn't really about practical issues.
In Korea, abortion has not been a hot-button political issue, and nary even one for public discussion. It's a PRACTICAL matter, having to do with the mechanics and logistics of sex, and has been mostly a solution to dealing with indiscretion. It is so much the case, that, to many Americans' surprise, it isn't even a hot-button issue amongst Korean Christians or the right wing here. Abortion, in Korean culture, exists squarely within the conversation about sex that NO ONE IS SUPPOSED TO HAVE. Period.
Essentially, the "dirty little secret" of sex in Korea, that abortion is a de facto means of birth control, hasn't met with any formal opposition of any large kind. Why would it? Like many embarrassing social problems here, it doesn't exist.
But now, Korea has the problem of having the lowest birthrate in the world. And the DUMBASS POLITICIANS, in trying to solve the problem, have taken the approach that the problem is merely in the supply chain -- not one created by huge societal forces, like most patterns of individual behavior that one might study: well, to get that birth rate back up, we gotta REDUCE ABORTIONS. Output not good? INCREASE INPUT.
Now, this is one of the dumbest fucking ideas I've ever heard. To answer the question of why I think that, one has to look at why things happen in societies, and why it's folly to try to wring and wrest things in other directions through sheer force of will.
The reason the birth rate is the lowest in the world here in South Korea has nothing to do with small forces or fleeting ideologies. I've heard idiotic pundits on television and radio attribute the ongoing trending upwards of the divorce rate to "Western influence" or "feminism," for example, when the rising rates of divorce were themselves controversial not more than a few of decades ago.
Even in the west, a sober sociologist would not give much credit to the "feminist movement" or to women burning their bras in public as much as to the recession in the 1970's forcing women into the workplace, thereby increasing their relative economic power, and hence, the increased ability to separate themselves from marriages that don't work, since they now have the socio-economic option to work, pay bills, and cover rent. It's a wonder to think that the movie "Kramer vs. Kramer" was ever controversial in the United States, but I remember seeing that myself in the late 1970's. Now, that drama wouldn't be fodder for more boring episode of the Jerry Springer Show.
Another Korean pundit attributed the rising divorce rate and average age of marriage to the equally-dubious, but conveniently vague spectre of "the IMF period." Huh? Really? As I see it, it was during this period that many of women's gains in terms of raw rates of employment and rising levels of advancement got nipped in the bud by mass firings of women first, given an option between keeping a man or a woman. It was during this time that women were purged from the workplace on a massive scale.
How exactly did this serve as a causal factor in increasing average age of marriage, or lowering the birth rate? No answers were given -- it was just "the IMF." Dumb. Who are these pundits, anyway?
"It's the economy, stupid." Bill Clinton knew what was up. But it's also the entire society, stupid. It's easy to see what's going on, especially since it mirrors the exact same pattern observed in many countries/cultures around the world: as a culture of nominal equality becomes the norm, as women are entering the workplace in droves and STAYING there after marriage and even pregnancy, their relative socio-economic power increases. They have more say in the home, in the relationship. They have more social options in case of a marriage gone bad. The bar for tolerating even what is defined as "bad" in a relationship goes down. Single women are working earlier and longer, and in a consumer society -- which, importantly, Korea was NOT a mere half-generation ago -- that means increased consumer power, leisure time, the ability to concentrate on "me."
Korean society snidely resists and derides this pattern through the negative depiction of independent women with names such as "bean-paste girl" and other societal characters who dare veer from the Confucian norm -- the campaigns against many women who "err" are cases-in-point, from the cyberstalking of the Korean girl who dared dance in a wet t-shirt with two white guys in a Hongdae club, or "dog-poop girl" or even the recent case of the rude college student who verbally abused a cleaning lady.
In any case, Korean society holds no place to "socially discipline" individual MALE netizens for acting out; but a rude woman can incur the wrath of an entire nation for getting a little out-of-line.
The recent move to fix the problem of the low birth rate by cracking down on abortion clinics is not only another example of this short-sighted and misogynist kind of thinking, it also won't work. Of all places where the rule of law doesn't function to simply fix or alter a given social situation, it's Korea. The government should know better than this.
This, before even getting to the fact that the only way to fix the birth rate is to change the social conditions that make it a socioeconomic penalty to have baby. Really beefing up laws to protect women's maternity leave, offering significant financial incentives and breaks for each baby one has, offering daycare and other facilities for working mothers, and even other more creative things such as vouchers for hagwons, supporting single-mothers by protecting their legal rights, and other things other, more informed people might think of.
The point is, effectively cutting off the right to safe abortions, in a society that already neglects the subject of sex education and contraception so much that abortion is akin to a backup form of contraception itself, then pulling the rug out from under this system and effectively trying to force women into full-term pregnancy is simply a crock of immoral and dishonest bullshit.
Korean male-dominated society -- if you law and policymakers want to raise the birthrate, stop the immature attitude that sex is a taboo topic, teach proper sex education to match the fact that yes, unmarried people are fucking, as are 30% of Korean high-schoolers before graduation, and a whole lotto other people. When a single woman gets pregnant, stop vilifying her and anyone like her, so she can not only have the baby without social stigma, but actually receives financial and social encouragement to do so.Dummies -- a lot of the women who are secretly running to the gynecologist to have these abortions are SINGLE women -- you want to trick/force them into pregnancies, but you socially shun them. Many real-estate agencies won't even rent apartments to single women, yet you expect these very women to carry an accidental zygote formed from an over-zealous fuck or failed birth control measure to carry it to full term?
What kind of idiots are making these policies, anyway? Oh, I know the answer. Upper-class, blue-suited ajusshis who are ill-informed and don't have a clue about how to solve social problems except to make short-sighted and simply counter-productive policies that don't at all even address the real forces that create the problems in the first place.
Hey -- I just got an idea! Our education system is in crisis and we don't know how to fairly distribute resources or teach crucial skills such as creativity and critical thinking. Also, the costs of private education and English instruction are getting out-of-control. What should we do?
Robot teachers! Yay!
Because the Korean education isn't already robotic enough NOW. And it just goes to show what Koreans think the jobs of native English teachers are, anyway. WALKING DICTIONARIES. Perhaps it's better that robots teach English. Because robotically is how Koreans learn English, anyway.
Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto!