Accepted Paper:

The Politics of Reproductive Rights and Assisted Reproductive Technologies in South Korea   

Author:

Sunhye Kim (University of Maryland)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how the feminist postcolonial STS approach can be a valuable tool to analyze the use of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) in South Korea through legal and social discourse analysis and in-depth interviews with infertile women, medical professionals, and governmental personnel.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines how the feminist postcolonial STS approach can be a useful tool to analyze the use of ARTs in South Korea. Its demand has been rapidly increasing as people are delaying childbearing. The average age of South Korean women giving birth for the first time is 31.5 years, and infertility related to delayed pregnancies is the major factors in the growth of IVF treatments. Initially criticized as a dangerous technology because it disrupts the concept of the traditional Korean family system and ideology, ARTs has gained a positive meaning as a hope technology for infertile women, aided by the South Korean government's provision of IVF subsidy programs since 2006. This research aims to discover what cultural, social, technological, and legal factors justify and promote the use of ARTs in South Korea by analyzing the related legal and social discourse and conducting in-depth interviews with infertile women, medical professionals in IVF clinics, and governmental personnel. This paper argues that the Korean use of ARTs cannot be fully understood without the an analysis of the postcolonial context of South Korea because ARTs developed under the international population control regime in the 1960s and 70s and expanded by the aspiration of Korean nationalists who believe the biotechnology revolution in South Korea can be an opportunity to 'catch up' or surpass the Western hegemony. Lastly, this paper addresses how the concept of reproductive rights in the field of ARTs can be claimed beyond western centered pro-choice discourse.

Panel T051
Feminist Postcolonial STS