SOUTH KOREA, February 8, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In an effort to promote a culture of life, the South Korean Catholic Bishops’ Conference (CBCK) has announced it will provide shelters and financial support for single mothers and free delivery for unmarried pregnant women in Catholic-run hospitals.

The initiative, called “New Life Project,” was inaugurated by the CBCK on February 7 at a Mass presided over by Bishop Gabriel Chang Bong-hun of Cheongju, president of the CBCK Committee for Bioethics.

“The Catholic Church teaches that human life begins from fertilization,” said Bishop Gabriel Chang Bong-hun of Cheongju. “Abortions and destruction of human embryos are grave crimes that destroy life.”

“We all should be the protectors of life by respecting and loving life and being proclaimers of the Gospel of life.”

The project seeks to encourage unwed pregnant women to have their babies through free delivery at hospitals, then accommodates the women following the birth of their child at 15 church and pro-life group shelters.  It is funded by the continued financial support of the dioceses.  In addition, the plan will also set up sex education for youth in Catholic schools and Sunday schools on preventing “unwanted pregnancy.”

Father Casimir Song Yul-sup, secretary of the Pro-life Activities, said the “New Life Project” would help many women.  “Annually, some 4,000 single women have their babies and they are great mothers who protect life. This project is concrete action and will help them and many others greatly,” he said

Although South Korea’s Mother and Child Health Law only permits abortion when the mother’s health is in serious danger, or in cases of rape, incest or severe genetic disorder, abortion is rampant throughout the country. In the past the government has promoted population control by abortion, and it continues to turn a blind eye to the illegal abortion trade.

South Korea now has one of the highest abortion rates worldwide and the second-lowest birthrate. Official data from the Ministry of Health last year indicates that doctors perform 350,000 abortions per year, while they deliver on average of just 450,000 babies, meaning 43.7 percent of pregnancies end in abortion.

The Korean Ministry of Health made an unusual request of workers last week on South Korea’s “Family Day.”  BBC reported that, worried about the drastically low birthrates, the Ministry of Health closed its doors early, sending home workers to spend time with their families and, hopefully, to make larger ones.  They will do the same each month.

Other initiatives throughout the country illustrate a widespread dissatisfaction with abortion and an increased desire to make changes.  Korean professors formed a group called the “Pro-life Professors’ Association” just last month.  The group is a non-religious organization that includes professors of medicine, mathematics, law, bio-ethics, music, and philanthropy.

“We will try to promote the respect for life,” said Martin Nam Myeong-jin, chairperson of the association.

“Beyond the religions, the matter of life is very important and we will exercise our influential power in taking away the trend that makes light of life,” said Kim Joon-il, secretary of the association.

The group has asked the government to amend the Mother and Child Health Act so that the hundreds of thousands of illegal abortions will stop.  The Pro-life Professors’ Association also plans to contribute scientific study to support the pro-life movement.

“It’s good to have such voluntary life movement organization. It will be a good help to the Church’s life movement,” said Father Casimir Song Yul-sup, secretary of Pro-life Activities.

Many Korean doctors led the way in the effort to put an end to the country’s abortion culture by organizing pro-life groups.  The Korean Gynecological Physicians’ Association, or “Gynob,” has over 680 listed members and a group of 30 activists. 

In a 2009 interview with Mercatornet, Seoul obstetrician and gynaecologist, Dr Sang-duk Shim said the group’s aim is to make working conditions for OB/GYNS better by eliminating abortions in the country. 

“The goal of our movement is a Korea without abortions,” said Dr. Shim. “To be more specific, our immediate goal is to reduce the number of abortions to 100,000 cases within ten years - one-third of what it is today - and to eliminate all forms of abortion except when necessary to save the life of an expectant mother.”

Dr. Shim says that he has no religious convictions that drive his work, and that he is determined that abortion must stop both for the good of the country and for physicians.  He has faced death-threats for his work.

“Medical doctors exist for the benefit of our patients. It is not the other way around,” said Dr. Shim. “This is a fact we cannot deny. While we may be sacrificing money and prestige at this present moment, things will get better in the future for our country. Our actions will certainly contribute to the improvement of medical environments as well as the promotion of women’s health in the days to come.”