An online debate has emerged following the Korean government’s decision to try and reclassify contraceptive pills, making “the pill” available by prescription and the “morning-after pill” (i.e. emergency contraception) only available OTC (over-the-counter). This is a reversal of the status quo that, for the last 44 years, has made the pill an OTC medicine.
Korean netizens find the new policy fairly outrageous (considering the pill has been so easily available for such a long time), with many claiming that the new plan might have something to do with combating Korea’s low birth rate. Whilst female rights groups voice concerns that it might restrict people’s right to choose, anti-abortion groups worry that women might overuse the morning-after pill instead of visiting the doctor for a prescription.
Asides from the “woman’s right to choose” argument, one of the reasons Korean women get upset over the issue is perhaps cultural: unmarried Korean women rarely visit a gynaecologist. Even when seriously ill, a visit to a gynaecology clinic would be reluctant for fear of the disapproving stares around them. That’s not to mention the social pressure on Korean women to remain sexually naïve.
Do we have to reveal our sex lives to get birth control pills?
At 11AM, June 8th, I visited a pharmacy near Yonsei University, Seoudaemun-gu, Seoul. I asked for birth control pills, and the pharmacist handed me one, covering it so no nearby men would notice. The pharmacist commented on the government’s policy [to change the classification of birth control pills to prescription drugs], saying ‘It’s not yet settled. We have to wait and see,’ yet one of the pharmacists working at a drug store near Ewha Womans University recommended that ‘there’s no sign of hoarding up though; since the pills have a long shelf life, it’d be convenient to buy it in advance.’
Contrary to the serene atmosphere at the pharmacies, Korean women are showing strong reactions to the issue. There are heated debates on the internet. Ms Yoon (26), a graduate student, said ‘the government hasn’t said anything about the risks of taking birth control pills, and NOW they try to regulate them? What an irresponsible government!’ One of the associates of Korean Womenlink acknowledged the necessity of medical consultation in order to find a suitable birth control method. However, the associate insisted that ‘Birth control pills are essential for women in preventing unwanted pregnancies, demanding that they visit hospital every month is a serious restriction on the right of women to choose.’
Many voiced concerns about placing more obstacles on birth control methods – especially on the accessibility of pills – unmarried women are strongly reluctant to see a gynaecologist and some married women admit that they would be uncomfortable to see the doctor for pills. Ms Lee (30), a housewife and married for two years, said that ‘It would be a nightmare if I had to explain my menstrual cycle and sex life to a gynaecologist every time I needed the pill.’
In addition to that, birth control pills have a variety of usages other than birth control: menstrual pain relief, controlling irregular menstrual cycle, adjusting menstrual days, treating acne and so on. Ms Kim, a disgruntled corporate worker, said ‘Even teenagers take the pills, facing Suneung or field trips.’ Ms Park, a university student said that ‘If the policy is settled, there would be a lot of things I should be aware of.’ Twitter user sojung***, insisted ‘It’s absurd to let the doctors decide if I need birth control or menstrual control.’ And another Twitter user said that ‘Practicing birth control is as painful as getting strange gazes in a gynecology clinic. On women-only internet communities and Twitter, there are articles with titles like, ‘Let’s buy up birth control pills.’ Ms Choi, a corporate worker, pointed out ‘It is about 15,000 won to get a prescription for morning after pills. If we have to visit whenever we need the pills, the cost will aggravate.’
Comments from Daum:
In short, the government is lying that birth control pills got suddenly dangerous and morning after pills became safe. Whichever pill it is, the doctors will be writing prescriptions. For the doctors, an effortless money-maker, for the consumers, it’s the spending of money with no significant reason.
Are lubricants in condoms safe?? We asked the government to allow convenient stores to sell cold medicines [previously only OTC] and their response is this?
Do the doctors micro-examine patients’ individual health when they write prescriptions? The consultation should last less than a minute. Only gynaecologists will benefit from this.
I take the pill to adjust menstrual cycle for exams or school retreats; this news is ridiculous. If the pills have risks to be over-the-counter [OTC], then it’s equally absurd to have classified the pills as OTC drugs for all those years.
When a government policy changes on a whim, it means lobbyists have made a deal with the government.. How much in bribes did they receive to change their position so quickly? It’s a matter of time to fully investigate this.
There must be something sinister behind this… We need a prescription even when we buy Kimite patches [a brand of motion sickness patches]
Are there fewer side effects when we get a prescription? It’s nothing more than taking money from patients. Or do gynaecologists give us an adverse drug reaction test or something? Otherwise, stop this absurdity..
Do I have to go to the hospital to buy them? I take the pill to keep my period from starting when I need to attend outdoor activities or trips. Motherfuckersㅡㅡ
The governtment is just trying to defend doctors’ incomes.
This is probably MB’s policy to boost the birth rate. If you want to be on the pill, then disclose your sex life. If you don’t like it, get pregnant.
Doctors and pharmacists do not think about patients! It’s an invasion of human rights^^
It’s weird that we need a prescription to buy Kimite patches ke ke
This is what the Korean government does..
Lee Myung-bak, this motherfucker’s administration doesn’t even allow us to fuck whenever we want.
Using condoms is uncomfortable for men, and yet why are you blaming women? Males should blame doctors. You guys are aiming at the wrong target.
Put on condoms correctly then.
Hey you dicks, if you’re not absolutely sure you pull it out within 0.1 seconds, you’d better rubber-up.
It must be hard to make a living as a gynaecologist… Birth control pills have been OTC and now the government wants them to be prescription pills.. And why on earth did the government re-classify emergency contraception as OTC drugs? They’re zigzagging all over the shop… If birth control pills have risks, do you think emergency pills are any safer?
This is a deceptive way of raising the birth rate.
I don’t take birth control pills to prevent pregnancy. I only use the pills to control my menstrual cycle: when there are exams or trips coming up. Birth control pill ads have stressed on ‘beauty effects’ like treating acne, and it became so risky that it requires a medical prescription.. What’s all this nonsense?