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Official end of family planning function

Posted January. 17, 2013 05:02,   


"Let`s live well," a Korean comedy movie released in 2006, is about family planning in the 1970s. At a village that boasts the nation`s top birth rate, a family planning agent at a healthcare center who wants to lower the village`s birth rate to 0 percent. Residents cannot distinguish between a condom and a balloon. The village chief, who is undergoing a Vasectomy operation to have no more children, asked the doctor, "Will it work, though." The residents represent Koreans 40 years ago who had no knowledge of contraception. Back then, the country had family planning agents sent by the then Healthcare and Society Ministry to every healthcare center from 1963.

The 1960s was a period when Koreans were in poverty and hungry. In 1960, the population growth rate was 3 percent and the average number of children was 6.3 per household. The baby boom generation after the Korean War (1955-1963) was subdued by President Park Chung-hee, who seized power in 1961 via a coup d’état. Under the slogan "Let`s live well," the government began a strong policy of population restriction from 1962. Seoul`s five-year economic development plan also included a population growth target. Slogans such as "Have no more than three children" and "Reckless child birth will worsen poverty" appeared.

In the 1970s, the motto was "Let`s have just two children, and don`t discriminate between a son and daughter." In the 1980s, "Having just one child can fill the entire country of Korea" was the catchphrase. In 1977, the government offered preferential treatment to people who underwent sterilization, and even men in their 50s and 60s flocked to healthcare centers to get a vasectomy. Men who underwent the procedure were also exempt from reserve forces training. Tariffs were lifted on importers of birth control pills. By 1988, the population growth rate fell to a 1-percent level. In 1994, the government gave up its birth control policy.

On Tuesday, a Cabinet meeting voted for a revised bill on a special healthcare measure in agriculture and fisheries that got rid of the family planning function of healthcare centers. This was the official abolition of the family planning work that had become useless in the 2000s. The fertility rate fell to below 2.1 in 1983, but the government stuck to its policy of birth rate restriction until the mid-1990s. Korea now has one of the world`s fastest aging populations. The slogan "3•3•35 (give birth to three babies in three-year intervals until age 35)" was changed to "1•2•35 (get pregnant within a year of marriage and give birth to two babies before age 35)." The number of young people in Korea is declining and that of senior citizens is increasing, which could drain state coffers. President-elect Park Geun-hye should tackle this severe problem since she promotes the slogan, "Let`s be well off again."

Editorial Writer Park Yong (parky@donga.com)