Why More South Korean Parents Want Daughters Instead of Sons
In the past, South Korean parents preferred having sons over daughters. Such bias stemmed from a traditionally-Confucian society, where males inherited most of the family’s property and carried on their name.
A son simply meant the family’s badge of honor.
However, 25 years later, parents are choosing otherwise, Heidi Shin argued via Public Radio International. To argue the shift in gender preferences, she cited her own 80-year-old Korean aunt as one of those who went to great lengths just to conceive a male.
Shin’s aunt kept giving birth in high hopes of having a son, resulting in four daughters. “I had to keep having children, because I thought I needed a son. It’s the only reason I have four kids. Not because I wanted four kids.”
Fewer girls were born by the time ultrasound technology came to South Korea. As parents were able to identify the sex of their unborn, pursuing pregnancy became a more deliberate choice. Shin’s aunt shared that many people aborted their babies as soon as they learned they were having daughters.
But now, the tides have turned. Shin shared that her cousin, a young mom, believed, “There’s really no use in having a son, because they just grow up to leave you, to take care of their wives.”
Such is the assumption that resonates across many South Korean households today. Shin asserted that Koreans are now more concerned about being cared for while alive, contrary to the previous generations which upheld Buddhist rituals where the eldest son made offerings to dead ancestors. She also attributed the change in belief to an increasing number of Korean Christians.
Apparently, this shift in preference did not happen overnight. In 2007, Choe Sang-hun of The New York Times cited one mother who received reactions of pity for having three sons and no daughter. She was quoted as saying, “When I tell people I have three sons and no daughter, they say they are sorry for my misfortune. Within a generation, I have turned from the luckiest woman possible to a pitiful mother.”
Choe reported that there were 116.5 boys for every 100 girls in South Korea back in the 1990’s. Nam In-soo reported via the Wall Street Journal that the ratio fell to 105.7 boys for every 100 girls in 2012 according to World Development Bank data.
Shin found close figures for 2016, noting 105 boys for every 100 girls.
Further studies may predict another possible shift in the child gender preference of South Korean parents, but in the mean time, their choice seems arguably fair.