South Koreans Gather 1 Million Signatures to Keep Abortion Illegal as Winter Olympics Captivate the World

International   |   Indya Rennie   |   Feb 23, 2018   |   1:44PM   |   Seoul, South Korea

Abortion activists gathered about 230,000 signatures calling for the legalization of abortion in South Korea, but the South Korean Catholic Church submitted a 1,005,000-name petition on Feb. 12 in response.

There has been a move to repeal South Korea’s 59-year ban on abortions in response to the rising number of single mothers in their modernizing society, UCA news reports.

UCA previously reported the South Korean government was compelled by law to issue an official statement when more than 200,000 names were submitted to the presidential homepage on Oct. 29 calling for the law to be abolished.

In response, Seoul’s Catholic Archdiocese’s Committee for Life developed a strategy on Nov. 7 and 13 to launch a counter petition in favor of protecting unborn babies’ lives. The signature-gathering officially began on Dec. 3, and the resulting petition was presented to Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung at the 2018 Mass for Family and Life in Seoul’s Myeongdong Cathedral.

While the abortion advocates’ signature-gathering campaign was driven by women groups and NGOs, the Catholic church mobilized their movement at the local parish level, the report continued.

The Korean Catholic Church’s Lay Apostolic Council also outlined their official stance on abortion and sent it to 80 Catholic Korean lawmakers.

Their goal is broader than simply preserving the law, however. Indeed, the law, which prohibits abortions except in cases of rape, incest, severe genetic disorders, or the mother’s health before 24 weeks, was poorly enforced until it survived a constitutional challenge in 2012, as Life News previously reported.

The Catholic Church also desires to create a culture of life. According to the UCA, the South Korean religious leaders are running part two of their campaign through March 18; their goal is to educate the masses about the dangers of legalizing abortion.

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The current president of the Committee for Bioethics of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea (CBCK), Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, said this, “I hope the campaign is used as a tool to spread the idea that we must respect life.”

Even with the fervent campaigning against the pro-life law, South Korea has experiencing a surge of pro-life activism. It witnessed its first annual March for Life in 2012, pushing to eradicate the exceptions for abortions that South Korea’s law does contain. Participants also urged the government to install nation-wide baby boxes, with a similar intent as the United States’ safe-haven laws, to combat the widespread problem of infant abandonment.

The Rev. Lee Jong-rak led by example when he installed South Korea’s first baby box in his home in 2009, which since has sheltered and saved the lives of 60 newborns.

From baby boxes to signatures, South Korea’s church community is on a mission.

“[This signature campaign] shows how desperate the church is to fulfill its mission of protecting all forms of life,” Cardinal Andrew Yeom Soo-jung said.