Last Thursday, South Korea’s Constitutional Court declared that a 1953 ban on abortions was unconstitutional, giving the South Korean Parliament until 2020 to revise the law. If the Parliament fails to pass a revision, the law will become null and void.
Before the ban was uplifted, the 66 year law stated that should a woman receive and abortion, she could face up to a year in prison and a fine of up to 2 million won ($1750 USD). Doctors that performed an illegal abortion could face up to 2 years in prison. Although illegal, the law failed to be enforced— in 2017, the state-sponsored Korean Institute for Health and Affairs estimated that 49,700 abortions had taken place. However, across the span of 2012 and 2017 only 80 women and doctors went to trial for the charge of illegal abortions.
The change in legislation was supported by a majority of the South Korean people according to recent polls. The law was made in a time when the nation was one of the least developed in the world, and where more conservative social policies were commonplace. South Korea has rapidly modernized since the turn of the 21st century, becoming a world economic and political leader. The ban on abortion is a rare vestigial law, with South Korea being one of the only developed countries with an abortion ban still in place. The decriminalization of abortion is indicative of an increasingly socially liberal politics and population.
Although many in Korea see this as a necessary social reform, there are still many conservative groups opposed to the change. On April 6th, anti-abortion protestors convened in Seoul for the “March for Life”. The population of South Korea is heavily Evangelical Christian, and many affiliated religious groups have contention with the morality of abortion.
Japan, a rapidly developing country similar to South Korea, now faces a population crisis with declining birth rates— a smaller young population cannot support the older population. Some fear that this could act as the nail in the coffin to a declining population, and plunge Korea into a similar situation as Japan.
Although there is still opposition to the decision, this indicates a growing socially liberal awareness in South Korea.
Jacinda Ardern may be the youngest female Prime Minister in the history of New Zealand, but she has been rather surprisingly catapulted to the international stage following the horrific Christchurch terror attacks, Islamophobia-inspired shootings at mosques which claimed 51 lives. Since then, her passionate advocacy for gun-control laws and against religious hatred have been accoladed as a paragon of leadership following such a tragedy. Immediately following the attack, she met with the families of the victims and grieved with them, continuously reaffirming that the Muslim community is one with the people of New Zealand. She also referred to the killer as a “terrorist” and refused to say his name. In a time of growing Islamophobia and xenophobia, she stated that “ Many of those affected will be members of our migrant communities - New Zealand is their home - they are us."
Prime Minister Ardern has also committed to ensuring that there will be no more Christ churched. Less than a week after the shooting, she announced a ban on military-style semi-automatic guns and assault rifles like those used in the terror attack, as well as rolling out a gun buyback plan to ensure that “fair and reasonable” compensation be paid to law-abiding gun owners in New Zealand. This was lauded by political figures the world over, including US Senator Bernie Sanders, who stated that “This is what real action to stop gun violence looks Like.”
Although Ms. Ardern may be most known for her swift action following Christchurch, she has also advocated for the cause of human rights across the globe. Speaking in front of the United Nations in September of this year, she covered a vast range of topics from Me Too to climate change. On the former, she said that “I for one will never celebrate the gains we have made for women domestically, while internationally other women and girls experience a lack of the most basic of opportunity and dignity”, and that “Me Too must become We Too.” On global warming, she chose not to stick her head in the metaphorical sand, instead referring to the undermining of climate agreements as “catastrophic” and called upon member nations to work together multilaterally to solve this pressing issue. While meeting with Li Xi, the Party Secretary of Guangdong Province in China, she raised concerns over the treatment of Uighur Muslims and similarly did so with Aung San Suu Kyi in regards to the Rohingya crisis, offering the help of New Zealand to fix the latter issue.
Jacinda Ardern may be relatively young, but it is clear she is committed, at least on a vocal level to remember the “lessons of history”, saying that “ In an increasingly uncertain world it is more important than ever that we remember the core values on which the UN was built. “That all people are equal, that everyone is entitled to have their dignity and human rights respected, that we must strive to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom and we must consistently hold ourselves to account on each.” She has clearly worked to uphold these values, and many people both in New Zealand and across the world hope to see her continue to lead with a promise of equality and safety for all people.
In the past five months, two Boeing 737 Max plane models have crashed, killing hundreds in the process. The first incident was in October, on Lion Air Flight 610, where 189 people died. The second was Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 on March 10 th , where 17 were killed.
There has been much speculation regarding what actually caused these incidents. A large amount of evidences points to the automated system used to avoid stalling. Specifically, in the Ethiopian crash, it was reported that the captain and first officers were unable to prevent the aircraft from nose diving, even though they followed procedure.
The faulty sensors of the Boeing 737 have been under intense scrutiny. The sensing system, called the MCAS, is suspected to have incorrectly pushed the front of the plane downwards. Investigators are still looking into what exactly led to the faults.
As a result of these crashes, aviation regulators internationally have decided to ground the plane model. There were thousands of unfilled orders of the model, but after the crashes, orders significantly dropped, and the company’s revenue dipped. The company has run into criticism on the design and approval of the plane.
On May 4th, a military-chartered Boeing 737, similar to the 737 Max, slid into a river in Jacksonville, Florida. None of the 143 passengers were killed, however the pets on board have not been retrieved.
In international travel, one will always consider safety as a factor. Especially in air travel, even when the risk is relatively low, the possibility of major errors in passenger safety measures will always be a major concern.
Out-of-Town (informally called MUNdays) is a publication run by students in Exeter's Model UN club. Currently, the amazing Sophie Fernandez '22 maintains the publication, curates its articles, and edits them. We do accept outside submissions! If you have an article or reflection on foreign policy, email firstname.lastname@example.org!