1960s

Post Korean War.

Women played a big role in developing the Nation after the Korean War.

1960s: Adoption shifts from war recovery response to nation building

In the 1960s, adoption of Korean children begins to shift from being the result of the effects of war, and political leaders start to think of international adoption as way to help Korea develop economically, politically, and socially

  • Prior to the push to industrialize in the 1960s, Korea was primarily an agrarian society with approximately 40% of the population working in agriculture and approximately 19% working in industrial jobs (by the 1990s, these numbers drastically switch to 9% working in agriculture and 45% in industry).  
  • Before this move to industrialize in the 1960s, there was mass poverty and a burgeoning population. Culturally, it was considered lucky to have more children, rather than less, and in 1960, the average number of children per woman was 6.3.
  • After Syngman Rhee, South Korea’s President became Park Chung Hee (1963-1979). Park was a military dictator, virulently anti-communist, and anti-unionized labor. Under Park Chung Hee, economic growth was driven by political repression and the repression of workers. His overall strategy was economic development first, and redistribution/social welfare to the populace later.
  • One of Park’s strategies to develop S. Korea was to promote an export-oriented industrialization strategy with much of the exports being textiles, garments, and electronics. These industries needed, and subsequently relied heavily on women to break with cultural norm that their role was to take care of home and family, and enter the workforce (to convince women to work in factories, the Korean government launched a campaign to erase the stigma of factory work for women). Because factory jobs were urban-based, there was a large migration of workers from rural areas to cities.
  • Park also promoted “patriarchal nationalism”. In Confucianism, women’s bodies belonged to fathers, husbands, and sons. Park added to these, the state. Under this ideology, the role of women in modernization was to bear children if you were married women, or fulfill your social duty to be in the labor force if you were unmarried.
  • Number of children abandoned 1955 = 715, 1964 = 11,319
  • Women were a boon for redevelopment was because they were paid significantly less than men, and rarely held supervisory positions because it was understood they would eventually leave the workforce when they got married. 
  • One result of so many unmarried young women moving to live and work in urban areas was an increase in the number of unmarried women having children.  
  • Social engineering strategies were also implemented during this time  in an effort to reduce the population and lower fertility rates because it was believed that “excess population” would derail economic development.  
  • In 1962, a family planning program was launched. Other measures to try and curb population in the 1960s and 1970s were to offer economic incentives such as tax reductions to those who had fewer children, implement widespread sterilization policies (mostly in rural areas), and adopt birth control as a national policy. Though abortion was illegal during this time, it was actually widely practiced and condoned by the government via family planning programs.  
  • Result: by 1990, the average number of children per woman was 1.6 (down from the 6.3 in 1960).