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[Opinion] Sex Balance of Newborns

Posted August. 07, 2008 06:23,   


How can one choose the sex of an unborn child? Various folk tales exist in Korea, though few of them are grounded in science. But two things can be statistically confirmed: newborn boys outnumber girls during or after a war and many couples with age differences get married during a war. Considering the heavy number of expected male casualties, the finding seems understandable. A University of Liverpool team has found that the older husband is, the more likely that his wife will bear a son.

Darwinian Theory explains this finding. Let’s take elks, for example. A male elk has multiple female partners. The younger a female elk is, the more likely she will give birth to a male. A male is deemed more suitable for passing dominant DNA features down to the next generation. A similar phenomenon is observed in human society. U.S. presidents have fathered more sons than daughters. David Bainbridge, who authored “The X in Sex: How the X Chromosome Controls Our Lives,” says more sons are a form of reward Mother Nature grants to a successful man.

Scientists have yet to explain the sex birth ratio. Statistically, however, newborn boys outnumber girls. Mother Nature probably set it that way to keep the balance between men and women in marriage, since more boys die prior to reaching adulthood. Certain countries, however, are defying this natural form of selection. Nations with preferences for boys kill or abort newborn or unborn girls. The problem is rampant in parts of India and China, and Korea is no stranger to this problem, either.

Last year, Korea recorded a boy-to-girl birth ratio of 106.1 to 100 for the first time in 25 years, a figure close to the natural condition of 103 to 107 per 100 girls. More Koreans are shunning the traditional preference for boys. In addition, the low birth rate is also a factor. Thus less people are artificially determining the sex of their babies. This trend represents a huge social change. Until recently, the Korean government promoted the birth of girls, but the change will soon relieve the girl student shortage in elementary schools and raise the number of prospective brides. Korea has taken a step closer to becoming a civilized country, and we are happy over it.

Editorial Writer Chung Seong-hi (shchung@donga.com)