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[Op-Ed] Population Education

Posted September. 19, 2009 10:14,   


In the 2006 film “Mission Sex Control,” a public servant in charge of population control goes to a small town and visits every house in the evening to prevent townspeople from having sex. Set in the era of President Park Chung-hee, the movie comically describes the conflict between the public servant, who promotes birth control, and farmers, who believe procreation is the most valuable thing they can do. Middle-aged moviegoers were reminded of the days when strong birth control measures were implemented.

Slogans promoting birth control at the time overwhelmed people amid the tense political situation in Korea. In the 1970s and 80s, the government installed population towers showing population increase every second at all train stations and bus terminals to make people guilty for having babies. The slogan “Even if a household has only one baby, the country will be packed with people” sounds moderate to “Those who give birth to babies recklessly will end up being beggars (1963).” The latter worked because it identified having many children with poverty.

In the 1980s when per capita income rose and two children per household became the norm, the government promoted a “one-child policy” and no discrimination against female babies. Slogans sprang up including, “A well-raised daughter matches 10 sons (1980)” and “Two is too many. Live a prosperous life with one baby (1982).” Though birth control measures continued until 1990 with the slogan “Fewer babies improve the health of both mothers and babies,” the commitment to population control markedly declined. Finally, the government in 1994 scrapped its birth control policies and the Planned Population Federation of Korea also stopped birth control education four years later.

A different form of population education to promote childbirth is set to begin amid the country’s low birth rate, which has reached a point where it threatens the future of the nation. A bill to support population education sponsored by a ruling party lawmaker urges education on the importance of marriage, childbirth and family both in schools and the military. Education is essential, but equally important is realistic policies that can plug gaps between expectations and reality. Surveys say women want to bear 2.3 children but statistics show the birth rate being 1.19. This means their desire to have children is hindered by the stark reality.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)