Prizing Girls: Like Father, like daughter
How South Korea learnt to love baby girls.
“I cried when I heard,” writes one blogger, recalling the moment she learned that her baby was a boy.
Those were bitter tears.
The woman was “so envious” of a mother who had just given birth to a daughter.
She was not at all unusual.
South Koreans of reproductive age now prefer girls to boys.
They have created a new term, “ddalbabo”—“daughter crazy”—for men who go loopy over their female offspring.
Until the early 20th century failure to bear a son was grounds for divorce.
Koreans greatly preferred boys, who could not only support their parents financially but also carry out ancestral rites.
When ultrasound technology became widespread in the 1980s, many South Koreans used it to detect female fetuses and then have them aborted.
Sex ratios became skewed.
In 1992 twice as many fourth babies were boys as were girls.
In response to these trends the South Korean government made it illegal for doctors to reveal the sex of a fetus.
It produced pro-girl slogans: “There is no envy for ten sons when you have one well-raised daughter.”
That may have helped, but not as much as economic change.
Following the Asian financial crisis of 1997, many women took part-time jobs to supplement the family income.
Parents noticed, and began to invest more heavily in educating girls.
In 2015 three-quarters of South Korean female secondary-schoolers went to university, compared with two-thirds of their male peers.
Aborting girls simply because they are girls has become so unthinkable that the law has been relaxed.
Since 2009 expectant parents have been allowed to know the sex of their baby after 32 weeks’ gestation.
Many will have found out before, from doctors who trust that parents’ attitudes have changed.