Korean J Med Hist.  2003 Dec;12(2):129-143.

Abortion in Korea Since 1945

  • 1Department of Medical History and Ethics, Inje University College of Medicine, Korea.
  • 2Department of Cancer, Prevention and Early Detection National Cancer Center, Korea.


Since prehistorical era, the human has desired to control reproduction artificially. However, abortion, one of the productive methods has been prohibited to a certain degree by law in some countries, but the operation of abortion has been done in practice. Also, controversial arguments on legitimacy of abortion have been raised. In Korea, physicians operates abortions more than 2 million times each year. In spite of serious social problems, arguments on abortion have not been common yet. The efforts to find a good solution for abortion have not been very sufficient. Therefore, this study is to investigate the concerns for the conditions of abortion since 1945 (this year is the independent one from Japan's government) through a historical perspective and to suggest the efficient direction in policy. Since 1945, many women have had no choice but abortion for their basic life. The Korean government of legislated the Crimes of Abortion in Criminal Law in 1953. However, the number of women who underwent abortion increased since 1962 due to the governmental Family Planning Policy. In addition, the Mother and Fatherless Child Health Act was enacted in 1973 that tolerated abortion to some extent. The disparate treatment of abortion between Criminal Law and the governmental policy fueled the confusion to potentially pregnant women. The first reason why Korean women choose abortion is wrongful pregnancy. Compared to other countries, in Korea, abortion were operated for sex selection. To conclude, it is important to be implement positive sex education, proper contraception education by government and social publicization of arguments on abortion.


Abortion; Crimes of Abortion; Family Planning Policy; Wrongful Pregnancy; Sex Selection

MeSH Terms

Abortion, Induced/*history
English Abstract
History of Medicine, 20th Cent.
History of Medicine, 21st Cent.
Public Health Practice/*history
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