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Yoonju was 40 years old when she had an abortion in 2009. She was a housewife, married with three children. At that time abortion was not legal in South Korea.

  • Drawing illustrating a woman.
    OTALT/Helene Karlsson

Yoonju's story is collected especially for the SHHH project. All informants and stories in this project have been anonymised. All names are changed.

Yoonju's story

I already had three children. My mother-in-law complained that I just had daughters. So, I was making up my mind that I would not have any more children. But when I was 40, I got pregnant again.

From that time on, my mother-in-law and sister-in-law made phone calls from all directions and stressed me. They intervened and said I had to do a prenatal test to see if I was pregnant with a son or a daughter. 

Why do people interfere with my pregnancy? I like it whether the baby is a daughter or a son. 

However, I was worried because the relationship with my mother-in-law was bad. And what should I do if the fetus was a daughter? There were also economic problems. Since I am a housewife and my husband alone made money, I was worried about the future, such as raising children and education.

Oh, my god! I never wanted to accept the choice of having an abortion if the fetus is a daughter and giving birth if the fetus is a son.


Pregnant women should be able to choose their own abortion! I was angry with my mother-in-law. She prefers sons. When I still had not decided what to do, she called me. “Are you going to have an abortion?”, she said, "Check if the fetus is a daughter or a son". Oh, my god! I never wanted to accept the choice of having an abortion if the fetus is a daughter and giving birth if the fetus is a son.

The day after my mother-in-law called, I went to the hospital and had an abortion. I did not want to test the sex of the fetus. My daughters must have felt discrimination in a family atmosphere that prefers boys. Aren't my daughters also precious? Both mother-in-law and sisters-in-law are women, how can they condemn me for not having a son?

I made the decission myself. I could not talk about abortion with my husband. My husband at that time had serious challenges at work, and he was worrying about raising our children and about the future. Still, I was very upset that my husband did not tell me honestly. When he was drunk, he went to his mother. You know he told her about his difficulties. These things hurt me a lot. That is why I decided to go to the hospital the next day and have an abortion.

I had my abortion in 2009. Abortion was illegal. The Ministry of Health and Welfare operated an abortion reporting center and took measures to punish hospitals that performed illegal abortions. Suddenly, the cost of abortion increased a lot. Nevertheless, it was not difficult to find a hospital. I secretly had the abortion in a small, shabby maternity hospital. I told my doctor that I had to have an abortion because I had many children and it was difficult financially. Then the doctor performed surgery. My husband came to the hospital with me.

Two and a half hours later I woke up. I opened my eyes and felt like I had experienced a fainting spell. The nurse said, “Ah? You are awake?. You can go now.” It was done. I was so embarrassed. Was it this simple? My husband was waiting outside. He said, “Oh? Was it done? Was it simple?” Both me and my husband were embarrassed... I just felt as if I was still pregnant. Tears came out so much. Oh... is it a lie? I thought. My heart still hurts.

I want people to realize that making a choice to have an abortion is complicated. No woman wants to have an abortion, I think. I also have heard that over 60% of women in Korea who have had an abortion are married. As such, there are many couples who fail contraception even if they are married. Women do not have abortions because of neglecting their baby's life. It is a situation that cannot be solved by giving birth. Thinking of an aborted baby always hurts me.