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Gender, Health, and History in Modern East Asia$
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Angela Ki Che Leung and Izumi Nakayama

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9789888390908

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888390908.001.0001

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Solving Low Fertility Rate with Technology?

Solving Low Fertility Rate with Technology?

(p.115) 4 Solving Low Fertility Rate with Technology?
Gender, Health, and History in Modern East Asia

Jung-ok Ha

Hong Kong University Press

South Korea's total fertility rate (TFR) in 2005 was 1.08, the lowest in the world. The government launched the National Support Program for Infertile Couples (“the Program”) in 2006 which expenditures for diverse assisted reproductive treatments are subsidized. This chapter seeks to critique three aspects of the Program. First, the Program is a population policy that has not kept up with changes in family values and practices. Second, the Program’s very implementation has created demand, ‘those diagnosed as infertile’ have become ‘infertile members of the population’. Lastly, the Program has resulted in a meaningful increase in the number of in vitro fertilization treatments, and this increase has negatively impacted the health of women and children. Reproduction has always been a field for political struggle, and political imagination-created reproduction is revealed most strikingly when reproduction becomes a “population problem”. South Korea’s National Family Planning Project was brought by the Park Chung-hee government, which emphasized the value of the “modern family,” specifically, “Modernization of the Fatherland,” as part of economic development in the 1970s. The low fertility rate that South Korea is now facing is considered a national crisis and the Program represents the government’s will to solve the crisis through medical technologies. However, the bodies of women are still considered objects in TFR statistics, much as they were in the 1970s. This has led to a situation in which the health and even the lives of women are being endangered once again

Keywords:   South Korea, National Support Program for Infertile Couples, low fertility rate, assisted reproduction technologies (ARTs), In vitro fertilization (IVF), International Population Conference, Women’s Forum, family values, population policy, women’s health

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