SEOUL, March 31, 2004 ( – South Korea, alarmed at having one of the lowest birth rates in the world, is considering implementing monetary incentives to encourage couples to have more children. The Republic of Korea has a birth rate of 1.17 children per woman and the population is expected to diminish by two-thirds over the next century from 48 to 16 million. The South Korean government is facing the same demographic crash that is predicted for most European countries over the next few decades and is attempting to curb it by offering cash to parents.

Kim Seuong-Kwon, director of social policy research at the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs says that the government is considering a variety of incentives. “For example, cash payments on the birth of a child and regular cash payments for every second and subsequent birth up to the age of 5, and an expansion of child care facilities.”

Korean women are following the global trend of marrying later, having fewer children when married and of forgoing marriage and children altogether in favour of a career. As with many countries in Asia, there is a cultural preference for male children and a disproportionate number of girls are aborted after pre-natal screening.

However, it seems that the government’s interest in raising the fertility rates is confounded by the Health Ministry’s commitment to contraception and abortion. International Planned Parenthood has been active in South Korea since the beginning of South Korea’s economic boom in the 1960’s. IPPF works in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Welfare to provide contraceptives and abortion through a national network of health centres.

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