Illegal abortion pills sweep South Korea
Online stores selling the pills are easily searchable, but most don’t talk about their side effects
By Rha Hae-sung
Despite laws banning medical or surgical abortion, the illegal trade in abortion pills has been steadily growing in South Korea. Law enforcement agencies have been cracking down on black markets, but the trafficking continues.
Korean online drug stores for abortion pills can be accessed within a few clicks on foreign search engines like Google. Most web pages selling the pills avoid specifying side effects while underscoring the advantages of medical abortion.
“Mifegyne is a package of medical abortion pills that doesn’t entail extreme pain and thus anaesthetics,” an online store for abortion pill Mifegyne says in its product description. “By simply taking a pill, you can avoid the side effects that derive from surgical abortions. It is cheaper and safer compared to the surgical processes.”
The drug-selling sites also have reviews that trumpet the pills’ benefits and safety. But the reviews’ credibility is limited as they are uploaded anonymously.
“I owe you my life, thank you so much,” one of the comments said. “It is the best pharmacy ever. I’ve successfully aborted my pregnancy through the pills.”
The sites also give the impression that the online retailers are run by medical professionals, when they are not. Most of the stores use pictures of doctors, surgeons and pharmacists in their web designs. One has been regularly putting up medical reports and issues related to abortion.
Adding fuel to the fire, social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have become a new hub for illicit trades. Individual dealers post their phone numbers with hashtags related to artificial abortion. In direct trades between individuals, tracking the origins of the medication is extremely difficult as there isn’t any specific or central source of the deals. This makes law enforcement extremely difficult.
There have been many reports of Chinese selling fake pills via social media and online stores that caused serious side effects in several women. In 2015, the Seoul Central District Court jailed Kim, 41, for distributing the fake medication to more than 100 women in South Korea. Kim’s accomplices also faced charges but their whereabouts were unknown.
More than 230,000 people have petitioned for the abortion law’s abolition via the presidential homepage. As the number of signature surpassed 200,000 by October 29, the South Korean government is now required to make an official statement on the issue.