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81,398 Korean babies entered from overseas

Oct 13,2017
Over the past decade, 81,398 newborn Korean babies entered Korea from nations such as China, Japan and the United States. Those from the United States were the majority at 28,809, while those from Canada, China and Japan were respectively 3,222, 13,864 and 12,485. The numbers are from the entry data of newborn Koreans from 2007 to 2016, compiled by Ministry of Justice and provided by Rep. Sung Il-jong of the main opposition, Liberal Korea Party on Tuesday.

The annual average of newborn Koreans entering from the United States was 2,881, or 35.4 percent, out of the total annual average at 8,140. Sung said that the large number of newborns from Canada and the United States, despite the long-distance flight, was likely influenced by “maternity tours” to earn foreign citizenship for their child.

Maternity tourism is a method of gaining foreign citizenship by taking advantage of laws that grant unconditional birthright citizenship. After giving birth in the United States, for example, many Korean families complete procedures for U.S. citizenship and then usually return to Korea within one month.

Now there is even a variation of these tours that include fetal gender selection as a package, offered especially in Gangnam, southern Seoul. Korea forbids DNA tests under the Bioethics and Safety Act, and penalizes taking such tests except for the purpose of screening genetic disorders. “The domestic law is basically ineffectual on actions taken abroad,” said Sung. “Using this loophole, the consulting firms lure customers - and business is thriving.”

Many of these brokers operate without medical expertise. In July, a broker illegally sold ovulation-inducing agents, without a prescription, to women who wanted fetal gender selection procedures abroad. “There needs to be a measure to prevent these businesses,” said Sung, “as there is increased likelihood of medical accidents or burdensome expenses.”

BY KIM SUN-YEONG [bae.seunghoon@joongang.co.kr]