The following comes from an Aug. 15 story on Aleteia.com.
In a companion article (see below), Asian expert Steven Mosher describes the South Korean abortion holocaust, which began in the 1960s, as a “secret shame.” And while demographers write of South Korea’s population loss and fertility rates so low that stabilizing the decline may be nearly impossible, there’s another aspect of the Korean abortion tragedy that’s increasingly becoming less secret: women struggling, even after decades, to cope with grief over a past abortion.
In South Korea, as in Japan and Taiwan, poignant displays are appearing in Buddhist and Taoist temples of hundreds, even thousands of statues of Jizo (Chijang or Jijang Bosal, in Korean), looking like baby Buddhas, often dressed in crocheted hats, red bibs and tiny cloaks. Each represents the loss of a child’s life and a mother’s heartbreak.
They give silent witness to the spiritual and emotional pain of abortion. They also refute the claim we routinely hear from those who promote abortion in the U.S. that any suffering after abortion is the product of “Catholic guilt” due to the Church having stigmatized abortion. Here we see, in societies where only a small percentage of the population is Catholic (0.5% in Japan, 2% in Taiwan, 10.9% in Korea), that women are also seeking ways to express their regret and find consolation and peace.
Where did these statues originate? Jizo statues began appearing in Japan, at least since the 1960s, in response to high levels of abortion in that country after World War II. Jizo statues represent the saviour god, Jizo, who rescues from Buddhist hells the souls of unborn children who have died from abortion or miscarriage. These children are called Mizuko or “water babies” (having died while surrounded by waters in the womb).
By the 1990s, the displays of these statues have spread to many temples in South Korea and “water baby offering” rites have become a frequent occurrence. Although nearly half of South Koreans identify as not having a faith, the country is heavily influenced by Buddhist traditions and many non-Buddhists are now also availing themselves of this rite.
It is still unclear if the remains of some children who died before birth are buried in the “cemetery” that Pope Francis is visiting on Saturday, August 16. It may serve as a memorial garden – like so many in the U.S. – where their loss is acknowledged and prayers are said for them. Because abortion in Korea is performed furtively in doctors’ offices and hospitals – rather than openly in high-volume clinics as in the U.S. – the disposal of the bodies of unborn children may be equally furtive.
This new openness and the broad range of activities and programs of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Korea may help change attitudes toward abortion in Korea, so that it will no longer be thought of as a necessary evil. The Korean bishops assumed a very active role in educating Koreans about abortion through public events, an annual Day for Life, educational materials, special Masses and programs, including for example, a workshop this past June for seminarians.
Fr. Casimir Song, who leads the Korean bishops’ office for pro-life activities, along with several of his colleagues, visited the Pro-Life Secretariat of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops five or six years ago, as I recall, to learn over several days how the Church in the United States promotes respect for the lives of unborn children and how it offers healing through Project Rachel Ministry for anyone, of any faith, who is suffering from a past abortion. As women find peace and healing through Christ, they often become the most eloquent advocates for the lives of the unborn, as Pope St. John Paul II observed in Evangelium Vitae, no. 99.
In 2010, another group in Korea courageously stepped forward to denounce abortion: Gynob is an organization of dozens of OB-GYNs who formerly performed abortions. They have asked the public’s forgiveness for having destroyed Korean lives. Dr. Choi Anna admitted, “We sold our souls for money. Abortion was an easy way to make money.”
To read the original story, click here.
The following comes from an Aug. 15 story by Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute, on Aleteia.com.
In many ways, South Korea is a great success story. Regular, peaceful elections have been held since the country transitioned to democracy in the 1980s, in sharp contrast to the despotic—some would say psychotic—regime in the north ruled by dictator-for-life Kim Jong-Un. The Samsungs and the Hyundais continue to roll off the assembly lines, shipped to consumers in the U.S. and around the world, and providing the South Koreans with one of the highest living standards in Asia.
And the number of Christians continues to grow. Nearly one-third of the population of 50 million—some 15 million people—now profess a belief in Jesus Christ. Of these, one-third are Catholic, part of the Pope’s worldwide flock, and the principal reason for his visit.
But this country—a success story in so many ways–hides a secret shame: South Korea has the highest abortion rate in the world. Nearly half of all pregnancies end in abortion. Each year, almost as many Korean children are aborted as are allowed to see the light of day.
This Pope understands that actions speak louder than words. (Think about his participation in Rome’s March for Life last year.) He knows that his visit to a Cemetery for Aborted Children will call attention to this ongoing tragedy.
The sheer dimensions of this South Korean holocaust are stunning. One source gives a figure of 340,000 abortions for 2012, a year in which the entire country only saw 440,000 live births. Perhaps 20 million children have been aborted over the last half century, a huge number for a country which is only the size of Indiana or Portugal—and over six times the number of military and civilian casualties the country suffered during the Korean War.
The number of abortions is little more a than guess-timate, however. No one knows the actual death toll with any precision, since nearly all of the abortions performed in South Korea are technically “illegal.” The country’s laws only permit abortion in cases of rape or incest, when a woman’s health is in danger, or when a pregnant woman or her spouse has certain communicable or hereditary diseases. No one keeps records.
The restrictions have been in place since 1953, but they are almost completely ignored in practice. Abortionists openly advertise their services in big cities like Seoul and Pusan. Many Korean women have had repeat abortions. And the authorities, for the most part, turn a blind eye.
So what is going on? Why is the world’s worst abortion holocaust taking place in a country where most abortions are illegal?
The answer in two words: population control.
Back in the late 1960s, South Korea came under tremendous pressure from the United States to reduce its birth rate on the grounds that it was “overpopulated.” (It wasn’t “overpopulated”, of course, it was merely poor.) The South Korean government went along with Uncle Sam and adopted a two-child policy. In reality it had little choice, since in those early years the U.S. forces were the only thing standing in the way of continued North Korean and Chinese aggression.
Anti-child propaganda was quickly introduced into the schools. Couples with more than two children were publicly criticized, while government officials with more than two children lost their jobs. And, most tellingly, laws restricting abortion became dead letters.
Abortion quickly became the primary means of birth control, as couples sought to conform to the new two-child norm. The abortion holocaust had begun.
Today, a half century later, most Koreans understand that the two-child policy was a tragic mistake. Bishop Peter Kang U-il of Cheju, for example, who serves as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea, said recently that the nation faces “a national disaster” because of “government policies over the years.”
The South Korean birth rate, at only 1.25 children per women, is among the lowest in the world. South Korea’s population is aging rapidly; its workforce is shrinking, and its population has started to decline.
In the face of such dismal numbers—which portend a kind of gradual national suicide–the government has reversed itself. Not only has it abandoned the two-child policy, it is now actually offering incentives to families to have more children. It is even beginning, in fits and starts, to crack down on illegal abortions….
To read this entire story, click here.