“Gendercide Undone: Evaluating the Causes of South Korea’s Return to Normal Sex Ratios” by Nicole Christine Frazer
Summary: After studying the problem of gendercide in China, I decided to examine another nation—South Korea—that struggled with gendercide in the 80s and 90s but somehow managed to bring its sex ratio within normal ratios during the past decade. My submission is the fruit of that examination—in the form of an extensive piece of original research. I focus a large portion of the paper on outlining six primary theories on what elements played the most important roles in ending Korea’s gender imbalance; later, I weigh the validity of these theories. To my knowledge, there is no other piece of research as extensive as this one that examines the plausibility of the different theories as to how South Korea fixed its gendercide problem. I hope that this piece can be used by both laypeople and policymakers to help end gendercide in China and throughout the world because it examines different aspects of South Korea’s transformation and discusses whether or not facets of South Korea’s transition can be exported to other nations.
I wrote this piece because I find South Korea’s story both confounding and inspiring. Confounding because the myriad forces that drove Korea’s resolution of gendercide are difficult—and sometimes impossible—to nail down. Inspiring because Korea is the only nation in modern times that has reversed rampant gendercide. And ultimately, for me, this piece represents hope: hope for the unwanted women and girls of Eastern Europe, India, and China—and anywhere else that gendercide is rampant. As I write in the paper, this piece holds deep meaning for me because Korea’s history of gendercide is a tragic and muddled one—yet, its experience is ringed about with hope.
Bio: A graduate of Patrick Henry College with a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, Nicole is currently a law student at the University of Virginia. While an undergraduate, she founded the college chapter of All Girls Allowed at Patrick Henry College and sat on the national student board for AGA. Her professional experience includes working for Prison Fellowship Ministries, the Heritage Foundation, and United States Senator Richard Lugar. Currently, Nicole is pursuing her degree in law at the University of Virginia; she one day hopes to use her legal experience to help abused, battered, and underrepresented women throughout the world obtain legal representation within their own legal systems.
I want to be able to continue to research on the issue of gendercide. I especially want to focus on other countries that have, or had in the the past, abysmal gender ratios, looking at how the experiences of other countries with gendercide can help us understand—and hopefully come closer—to solving China’s problem.
Below is an excerpt from the paper. Click here to read the paper in its entirety
Gendercide Undone: Evaluating the Causes of South Korea’s Return to Normal Sex Ratios
“A woman must follow three men in her lifetime: her father, her husband, and finally her eldest son.” ~ Confucian principle of samjong-jido
“”There are three unfilial acts: the greatest of these is the failure to produce sons.” ~ Confucius
“[To] choose the sexes of our children … is one of the most stupendously sexist acts in which it is possible to engage. It is the original sexist sin … [Both pre- and post- conception technologies] make the most basic judgment about the worth of a human being rest first and foremost on its sex.” ~ Tabitha Powledge
The modern world is facing a demographic and human rights crisis of astronomical proportions: one hundred sixty-million girls are missing from the world today. Throughout much of the world, and especially Eastern Europe and Asia, a decided preference for male babies is held by much of the population. Women and men in many cultures want to have sons—and are using modern technologies, such as sex-selective abortion, to unsure that they do so. In China, over 120 boys are born for every 100 girls, and in India 108 boys are born for every 100 girls. The slaughter of millions of female fetuses has resulted in a host of problems, including increased human trafficking and abysmally high suicide rates among women.
But in the midst of this dismal picture for baby girls throughout the world, one bright light stands out: South Korea. In 1990, South Korea was experiencing a gender imbalance almost as high as China’s today and the highest in the world at the time. Yet as of 2007, South Korea had brought its male-female ratio at birth down to a natural level. But how did South Korea manage this unheard-of feat in such a short period of time? And what implications and hope does South Korea’s experience hold for other nations—such as China and India—that are facing similar gender imbalances? This paper will examine the answers that various authors have given to these questions, ultimately concluding that demographic and reproductive law enforcement theories stand up better than do theories centering on the status of women in Korea. While a cursory look at the various theories might lead one to believe that factors that have elevated the status of women in Korea have done the most to decrease gendercide, this paper ultimately finds that demographic and reproductive law enforcement have played the most important role in ending gendercide in Korea.