Categorized | slider, South Korea

Does Seoul Listen to Women on Women’s Issues?


This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • The South Korean government advanced new legislation that would allow abortions until the 14th week of pregnancy.
  • Constitutional Court ruled in 2019 that an outright ban on abortion is unconstitutional.
  • However, the proposed revision falls short of calls by women’s rights activists to completely abolish the current anti-abortion laws.

Implications: The backlash from women’s rights advocates suggests that the government failed to sufficiently engage civic stakeholders when developing public policy. The move to revise existing laws against abortion faced significant pushback from conservative organizations. Nonetheless, the vocal rebuke of the government’s partial repeal of the anti-choice law by advocates of women’s rights – including those within the ruling Democratic Party – indicates that civic groups were not properly consulted.

Context: The 2019 ruling by the Constitutional Court challenged a 1953 statute that subjected women and the attending physician to a maximum of two years imprisonment for aborting a fetus. The Court’s dissent led to a public petition that called for the complete abolition of the anti-abortion law. Underscoring the public backing for pro-choice legislation, the petition raised over 230,000 signatures. This push is also backed by the fact that fewer abortions are being performed in South Korea. Between 2005 and 2017, pregnancy termination fell sharply from 342,400 to 168,700.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Sophie Joo, Sonia Kim, and Chris Lee.

Picture from the flickr account of GiulioBig

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The Peninsula blog is a project of the Korea Economic Institute. It is designed to provide a wide ranging forum for discussion of the foreign policy, economic, and social issues that impact the Korean peninsula. The views expressed on The Peninsula are those of the authors alone, and should not be taken to represent the views of either the editors or the Korea Economic Institute. For questions, comments, or to submit a post to The Peninsula, please contact us at ts@keia.org.