She said she went through IVF treatment in Japan as it wasn’t legal for unmarried women in South Korea to do so.
This set off a discussion across society, not simply regarding the legality of fertility treatment in the country. It triggered a broader contemplation on the challenges single women in Korea face when they are raising children without a ring on their finger.
It also raised the issue of marriage, as recent years have shown fewer Koreans are willing to walk down the aisle.
We talk about how families are becoming more diverse in Korea,.. and how to best support them in all their shapes and sizes.
For this we’re joined by Dr. David Tizzard, Professor of Politics at Seoul Women’s University. Great to see you.
We also have Dr. Aly Suh, Professor of Psychology at Sungshin Women’s University. It’s always lovely to have you on the show.
David: Let’s start with Sayuri Fujita, the Japanese celebrity who raised the rather contentious issue of South Korea banning single women from receiving fertility treatment. It’s not an outright ban, of course, but it does require a woman to receive her spouse’s consent before undergoing the procedure which is only available to married couples.
Surrogacy is also banned. What are some reasons that these regulations are in place in South Korea, and are they too strict?
Aly: Ms. Fujita wanted to be a mother but not necessarily a wife. Whether you agree with this or not, you have to admit that it is a very tough decision to make, a huge financial, psychological and emotional commitment, and in most cases, women don’t have the luxury of making the choice Ms. Fujita did.
Many, not only in Korea but in other societies, disapprove of single parenting, because of the various concerns involved, and some argue that it breaks the conventions of what a family should look like, and can potentially compromise a child’s upbringing. What do you think about this?
3. Aly: In the media, women who raise children on their own have been labelled ‘ ‘ which actually translates to unmarried mother. But then, we rarely hear the term which would mean unmarried father. Do you think terms like these add to social stigma around single parenthood, and should they be changed?
4. David: South Korea has long been a homogenous society obsessed with bloodline and Confucianist values on family and particularly a woman’s role in the family. But is it healthy to insist on maintaining these values in a society where fertility and marriage rates are going down? Are we seeing a backlash against these values?
5. David: The government announced measures to strengthen support for mothers from the early stages of pregnancy by expanding counseling services and mentoring programs from experts and other single parents.
It also expanded child support to include single parents who are also receiving basic livelihood grants, with the age ceiling raised from 24 to 34 years of age. But are these enough? What kind of social welfare system needs to be in place for single mothers in South Korea, and how can a diversity of family types be embraced?
6. Aly: Single parenting is hard enough as it is, without the stigmatisation. What challenges do South Korea’s single mothers face, and how should parents, especially women, be supported mentally systematically and psychologically?
7. Aly: South Korea is traditionally seen as a rather conservative society due to its strong Confucian roots.
How have perceptions on marriage been changing among young people, particularly women?
8. David: How should the conversation on family values be steered in South Korea?
9. Same question to you Dr. Aly. How should the conversation on families take place?
That’s where we must leave today’s discussion.
Dr. David Tizzard, Professor of Politics at Seoul Women’s University and Dr. Aly Suh, Professor of Psychology at Sungshin Women’s University.
Thank you both for your time.