An Illustrated History of Family Planning in Korea

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In the aftermath of the Korean War, the young South Korean Republic faced an influx of over two million refugees from North Korea and a post-war baby boom with a fertility rate of 5 births per woman. The population was growing at a 3% rate each year and fear arised about the country's limited land resources. As a result, the Planned Parenthood Federation of Korea (PPFK) was created in 1961. During the following decades the Federation organized several campaigns to limit procreation.

In the sixties, the agency started a communication campaign with the slogan 덮어놓고 낳다보면, 거지꼴을 못 면한다 ! (If you give birth recklessly, you will unevitably become a beggar), later followed by the "3 3 35" campaign in 1966. The goal of the "3 3 35" campaign was for every Korean woman to have 3 children each at a 3 year interval before she reaches the age of 35.

The "If you give birth recklessly, you will unevitably become a beggar" campaign of the sixties

In the seventies, the population growth rate was cut in half and people were encouraged to sustain this progress by having only two children instead of three. Korea being a very Confucianist country, one reason why people would want to have more than two or three children was the birth of a son. If a couple had three daughters, they would try to have another child until they got a son. To counter this the PPFK emphasized the need to fight discrimination in its campaigns. In the mid seventies, men were encouraged to use contraception and the state sponsored voluntary vasectomies.

A family planning event in 1974: "The year we won't get pregnant"

The birth rate dropped significantly during the 80's, dropping below 2 (the population replacement threshold) at the end of the decade. This was the result of increased effort to lower the country's birthrates: after encouraging having two children in the 70's, the PPFK started to promote single child families in the 80's. A recurring theme of the family planning campaigns of the 80's is the overpopulation concern, visible in a lot of the posters published then.

In the 90's, the campaigns dropped the overpopulation theme and focused instead on fighting discrimination and to change people's mind about the importance of having a son. Still today, Korea has the same gender imbalance problem than China or Saudi Arabia because of sex selection techniques.

Recently, facing the lowest birthrates in the world Korea has reversed its family planning policies to try to get people to have more babies. The message of the PPFK's communication campaigns switched to the promotion of large households. Some local governments have started to offer financial incentives which rise with the number of children. Men who underwent vasectomies or women who had their tubes ligated can now have the procedure reversed for free if they wanted to have more children. As another example of the government' support to large families, we can consider  couple months ago, the story of this woman who gave birth to her 9th baby in June. The city of Seosan in which the parents live has provides the family with 1.7 million wons (about US$1600) in child benefit allowances and the local bureau of the township of Haemi provides them with food supplies.  

You can see for yourself the evolution of the family planning policies in Korea with the following posters. 

Posters from the 70's:

A happy household through family planning

We're all the same human beings
This poster is interesting as it is a clear criticism of traditional Confucianist values and the discrimination they imply. The man is wearing the traditional Korean hat on top of his Western style suit while his wife wears the traditional hanbok dress. His arms are filled with symbols of traditional values: property, offspring, inheritance and parental authority. The word on his hat means: head of the household.

They're not different because they're girls.
Let's have only two kids and raise them well

What method is good?
The man is running towards a "Family Planning" Price, his shirt says male contraception
He is saying "I'll do it"
In 1975, public authorities started subsidizing vasectomies

Building a young and pretty path: Family Planning

They're not different because they're girls.
Let's have only two kids and raise them well

Only two kids and a well adjusted amount of food

They're not different because they're girls.
Let's have only two kids and raise them well

The World's Common Fate

They're not different because they're girls.
Let's have only two kids and raise them well

Posters from the 80's:

Our country is an overcrowded space

Because of a son...
The serious problem of overpopulation is not only your problem or my problem it is our problem
The red pepper is a common symbol in Korea for virility and manhood. 
In this poster, it is clearly linked to the overpopulation problem.

One household full of love, one child full of health

Two is already a too much!

Our country is an overcrowded space
Even if everyone only has one child, the country will still be overpopulated

Limited space! Growing Population!
Now there is no space to breathe

One is enough

Posters from the 90's:

Teacher, if you want to be nice make boys and girls sit next to one another

The three posters below are part of a more recent ad campaign to promote natality. They should have stuck with their previous illustrators because I've rarely seen such ugly design: 

Dad! I hate being alone
Mom! I want to have a little brother or sister too

Mom! Dad! I hate being alone...

Many candles shine brighter than one candle



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