Should You Go to South Korea for Surrogacy?

Should You Go to South Korea for Surrogacy?

In this video, Accredited Family Law Specialist and Page Provan Director Stephen Page discusses surrogacy and its legal situations in South Korea.


G’day. [It’s] Stephen Page from Page Provan Family and Fertility Lawyers. Today I’m talking about surrogacy in South Korea. I’ve had clients from South Korea who’ve done surrogacy somewhere else, I’m also aware of what the legal situation is in South Korea. 

Sadly, there are great restrictions on surrogacy in South Korea.

When one tries to find out what the law is in South Korea, one finds that, in fact, there is no law in South Korea that concerns surrogacy. One might think, therefore, that anything can happen. We can make sure that surrogacy happens because there’s no law that prohibits it.

That’s not the reality. A couple of years ago, I had the privilege of speaking at the International Bar Association conference, which was held in Seoul in South Korea. The International Bar Association, obviously, is the organisation that brings lawyers together from around the world. It’s the peak lawyers body. 

And when I was there, I thought, “Well, I’m going to go to Seoul. I want to visit an IVF clinic because that’s what I do. I want to see how they go.” 

And I had this amazing tour of the largest IVF clinic in Asia and based in Seoul. This clinic had these extraordinary counters, one counter for those who speak Korean, another counter for those who speak English, another counter for those who speak Mongolian, and another counter for those who speak Russian, because, of course, they have patients who come from Mongolia and Russia, amongst others, and they have English speaking ex-pats. And while I was there at this extraordinary clinic, I had a discussion with them about surrogacy.

So here it is the largest clinic in Asia. And did they do surrogacy? Yes. They said twice, only twice. 

Why only twice? Well, because the process of surrogacy in South Korea, absent any laws, must be by way of adoption. And they were concerned, the clinic, that if they didn’t do it in a conservative manner and something went wrong, then it would just be a disaster for them and their industry. 

So they took the conservative view that the surrogate must be a sister of the intended mother. And we are talking about heterosexual married couples.

So each sister must be in a heterosexual marriage, because only heterosexual marriages, I should say, are recognised in South Korea. So if they didn’t fall within that category, they wouldn’t do. And I said, “Well, but there’s no law on it.” “Yes. But if we were to open the doors, then in effect, there would be a floodgate. And as the leader in our field, we want to make sure that we set the tone, because after all, we have a licence from the government.”

What they said loud and clear, the impression I got was that if they underwent surrogacy and allowed others to do surrogacy more broadly as we have happened here in Australia, then they could not, if something went wrong, they could not justify it. They might lose their licence or be disciplined or have regulation imposed in all sorts of ways, and if they as the leader took that view, then others would follow.

If, on the other hand, they as the leader, decided to let the floodgates open, then others would follow.

So they were demonstrating an approach to take that other clinics would also follow. 

So therefore, in South Korea, there are no laws to allow surrogacy or prevent surrogacy, but to have the change of parentage must be through adoption. And the only clinic that has has handled, to my knowledge, surrogacy there the largest one, has only done so twice at least as of a couple of years ago, and that was between sisters.

Thank you.

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