October 15, 2021 08:38
Korean parents' traditional preference for boys has been almost completely eroded as surreptitious abortions of female fetuses come to an end.
Last year's gender ratio at birth stood at 104.8 boys to 100 girls, the lowest on record after peaking at 116.5 in 1990 and well within the natural average.
The shift can be observed most poignantly in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province, which is home to the most conservative Confucian clans in the country. The gender ratio at birth there was the highest in the country at a whopping 130.6 boys for every 100 girls in 1990.
Second at the time was Daegu with 129.8 while the nationwide average was 116.5. But even in Andong things are changing. A total of 511 babies were born there in the first eight months of this year, and there were only nine more boys than girls. As recently as 2016 there were 79 more.
An Andong city official speculated, "If this trend continues, the number of baby girls born this year could surpass the number of baby boys."
Experts cite multiple reasons. Korea's birthrate has fallen to just 0.84 child per woman, while traditional preferences for sons are waning as more and more women work and become independent. Indeed, there now seems to be a slight preference for girl children. Internet communities focusing on parenthood are filled with people asking questions on how to have baby girls.
Ob-gyn clinics and hospitals confirm the trend. Kim Dong-seok, the head of the Korean Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology said, "Couples who come to hospital now want a baby girl, and many hope for a baby girl as their second child too."
Girls are now thought to be perfectly capable of taking care of their aging parents later in life, and possibly even better at it than often feckless sons.
Hankook Research polled 1,000 adults in June, and 57 percent of the respondents said it is useful to have a daughter, rising to 66 percent among respondents in over 60, who come from a generation that used to prefer baby boys.
"The traditional preference for boys stemmed from the desire to carry on the family name, but most parents these days focus on their present rather than future lives," said Cho Young-tae at Seoul National University.
And Kim Yoon-tae at Korea University said, "As the social and economic status of women rises, parents no longer have to rely on sons. And daughters are able to care for their parents even after they get married, which has increased the level of satisfaction among parents for baby girls."
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