July 08, 2020 08:49
A growing number of women in traditionally conservative Korea are willing to have children out of wedlock, suggesting that old taboos are fast eroding.
In a straw poll of 389 single women in their 30s by pollster Tillion Pro, 34.2 percent said they want to get married and have kids, but 10.3 percent said they wanted to have children but definitely not marry. Another 7.5 percent of the respondents said they wanted kids whether they are married or not.
As the age of marriage climbs and climbs for various reasons, a growing number of women in Korea are considering alternatives to giving birth themselves. One option that has grown in popularity has been to freeze their eggs.
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, the number of women who froze their eggs almost tripled from 6,851 in 2014 to 22,614 in 2018. At CHA Medical Center, which offers such services, the number of cases rose from just one in 2000 to 493 last year.
Han Se-yeol at the clinic said most of the women are single, while married couples can opt to have embryos frozen, which is safer. "An egg can be frozen for an indefinite period of time, but many women never come for their eggs, so we charge a storage fee every few years," Han said. Experts say a healthy egg can be stored from a woman up to the age of 37.
But simply freezing eggs does not solve the problem. Sperm is required to fertilize it, and it is difficult for unmarried women to obtain it without sexual relations. Under the ministry's guidelines, no laws prohibit single women from receiving sperm donations, but it requires the submission of a copy of the family register and the consent of a spouse.
The CHA Medical Center said it offers its fertility treatments only to legally married couples, while common-law marriages require extra proof. "Some single women tell us they plan to obtain sperm from overseas, but we refuse to administer our services to them."
This is why instances of women trying to buy sperm from strangers or friends are growing. Because of the difficulties of in-vitro fertilization, some end up having sex with the putative father instead.
Do single men want to have children too? In another straw poll of 157 single men by Tillion Pro, 14.6 percent of male respondents in their 30s wished to have kids whether they were married or not, twice as many as among women. Also, 8.9 percent of the male respondents said they wanted to have children but not get married.
But for single men this can be even more difficult since someone needs to give birth to the child. "Men's sperm also deteriorates in quality and number as they age, but not as sharply as what happens to female eggs," Han said. "That's why hardly any single males want to have their sperm frozen."
But it is nearly impossible to find egg donors or surrogate mothers for single men even if they freeze their sperm. The number of sperm donors is increasing steadily, but the number of egg donors is much smaller.
According to Statistics Korea, 9,066 children are being raised by unwed fathers and 24,969 by single mothers.
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