Legate STEVEN MOSHER writes that abortion is out of control in North and South Korea . . .
When Pope Francis landed in Seoul on Aug. 14, he was greeted by cheering crowds of jubilant Catholics — a fitting welcome from a country with Asia’s second largest Catholic population.
From across the border in North Korea, the Pope received a welcome of a different sort. As his plane touched down, Pyongyang defiantly fired no fewer than five short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan. It was a stark reminder that the North was still technically at war with the South — and that the North’s communist dictator, Kim Jong-un, perhaps objected to the Pope’s visit.
Catholicism has been all but extinguished in the officially atheistic North. Those who did not manage to flee during the Korean War ended up in a concentration camp. Of the estimated 40,000 Catholics in North Korea today, as many as half may be imprisoned. In a sense, the entire country is one large prison camp.
But the two Koreas, as different as they are in every other respect, have one thing in common: They both have high rates of abortion.
Some years ago I sent investigators to Pyongyang to gather information on North Korea’s abortion practices. They found that not only is abortion legal throughout pregnancy, but also that pregnancy itself is considered to be a crime under some circumstances. For example, if a women returning from China is discovered to be pregnant, she is taken in for an abortion. Why? Because the authorities assume the father is Chinese and are under orders that no “half-breeds” are to be born.
The Kim dynasty has long imposed other restrictions on pregnant women as well. Women living in the capital city of Pyongyang are banished to the countryside if they become pregnant. Things are even worse in North Korea’s vast network of concentration camps. Here, pregnancy is strictly forbidden. Pregnant women are forced to run around the camp — or beaten — until they miscarry. There are credible reports from defectors that women who somehow manage to give birth in the camps see their babies murdered before their eyes, and then the woman is executed.
Add to these atrocities the grinding poverty and periodic famines that are characteristic of communism, and it will come as no surprise to learn that North Korean women are averaging fewer than two children — not enough to maintain the current population over time.
I was taken aback to discover that the South Korean birth rate is even lower, and its abortion rate even higher, than the impoverished North. In fact, South Korea has one of the highest abortion rates, and one of the lowest birth rates, in the entire world.
Each year almost half of Korean children are aborted. There were an estimated 340,000 abortions in 2012, compared with only 440,000 live births. In all, perhaps 20 million children have been aborted over the last half-century, a huge death toll in a country which is only the size of Indiana. The total fertility rate has fallen to an anemic 1.25 children per woman.
How did South Korea, a country that, unlike the communist North, enjoys freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and freedom of speech wind up killing half its children? And why did a country with a booming economy and regular elections decide to commit a kind of collective suicide? (If you think that this is putting it too strongly, consider that South Korea is aging rapidly, its workforce is shrinking, and its population has started to decline.)
I can give you the answer in two words: population control. Back in the late 1960s, the U.S. pressured South Korea to reduce its birth rate on the grounds that it was “overpopulated.” Seoul went along with Washington’s demands and adopted a two-child policy.
Anti-child propaganda was introduced in the media and the schools. Couples with more than two children were publicly criticized, while government officials with more than two children lost their jobs. Abortion became the primary means of birth control, as couples sought to conform to the policy. The abortion holocaust had begun.
Today, a half-century later, most Koreans understand that the two-child policy was a tragic mistake. The government has not only abandoned the two-child policy, it is instead rewarding couples who have children. But abortion has become a way of life in Korea, and the birthrate continues to fall.
Pope Francis understands this as well. This is why he chose to visit a “Cemetery for Aborted Children” during his time in Korea, and to pray for the children to whom it is dedicated — tiny martyrs to a population control program gone mad.
STEVEN W. MOSHER is a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter and the president of the Population Research Institute.