More than 3,000 abortions take place in Korea on a daily basis, doctors estimate. The estimate follows an announcement by Cheong Wa Dae on Sunday that it will study the question after over 200,000 people signed a petition on its website to legalize abortion.
Previous studies by the Ministry of Health and Welfare found that there were 342,000 abortions in 2005 and 168,000 in 2010. That averages out to between 460 and 3,000 abortions a day.
But an accurate assessment is difficult due to the increasing use of morning-after pills and the reluctance of women and doctors to admit to illegal practices.
Abortion remains illegal in Korea except when fetuses carry genetic defects or infectious diseases or when the fetus is conceived as a result of rape.
Women who break the law theoretically face up to a year in jail or a maximum W2 million fine, and doctors who conduct abortions face up to two years behind bars (US$1=W1,089).
According to a UN report, 131 countries including South Korea partially permit abortion, while it is fully legal in 58 nations including Canada and North Korea. It remains banned only in Chile and five other countries.