[NY Times] Korean County achieves its goal: Less birth control, more babies

December 1, 2015





HAENAM, South Korea — Back in the 1970s and ’80s, when the South Korean government was focused on alleviating poverty, Kim Chung-jae and other health officials toured villages to persuade couples to practice birth control.

They distributed condoms and birth control pills. They asked women to have tubectomies and men to have vasectomies, offering incentives like sacks of flour for wives and exemptions from army reserve training for husbands. Those willing were taken to clinics to have the procedures.

“The Home Ministry set a quota on how many men and wives we should persuade to have a vasectomy or tubectomy,” Mr. Kim said. “No public servant serious about his career could ignore it.”

Fast-forward to 2015, and Mr. Kim and his colleagues are doing exactly the opposite: trying to persuade couples to have more babies. They hand out monthly cash allowances and deliver boxes of beef and baby clothes to families with newborns. They place newspaper ads welcoming the births. They offer the service of Confucian scholars to come up with propitious names for babies.