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Does Korea allow surrogacy?

Surrogacy refers to an arrangement where a woman carries and gives birth to a baby for another couple or individual. The surrogate mother agrees to hand over the baby to the intended parents once it is born. Surrogacy is one of the options available to couples who are unable to have children on their own due to medical reasons like infertility or health conditions. Surrogacy laws and regulations vary greatly around the world. Some countries allow commercial surrogacy, some only altruistic surrogacy, and others ban the practice entirely. In this article, we will look at whether or not Korea allows surrogacy.

Surrogacy Laws in Korea

Surrogacy is tightly regulated in Korea under the Bioethics and Safety Act. Only altruistic surrogacy is permitted, where the surrogate mother cannot receive monetary compensation beyond basic medical expenses related to the pregnancy and delivery. Commercial surrogacy is prohibited.

The intended parents must be legally married, and at least one of them must contribute their sperm or egg. Gestational surrogacy is allowed, where the surrogate is not genetically related to the baby. Traditional surrogacy using the surrogate’s own egg is prohibited. Only Korean citizens are allowed to engage in surrogacy arrangements under the law.

Surrogacy in Korea is also highly restrictive in terms of eligibility. The intended parents must prove they cannot bear a child due to uterine disorders, ovarian disorders, or repeated failed IVF attempts due to unexplained infertility. They must obtain medical approval and meet other requirements before being allowed to pursue surrogacy.

Key Requirements for Surrogacy in Korea

Here are some of the key requirements for intended parents seeking surrogacy in Korea:

– Must be legally married heterosexual couple
– One spouse must contribute sperm or egg
– Must have a medical need for surrogacy and get doctor’s approval
– Must be Korean citizens
– Must not have any living biological children
– Must not have a history of child abuse

The surrogate mother must also meet certain criteria:

– Must be Korean citizen
– Must have at least one living child of her own
– Must obtain spousal consent
– Must not have a history of surrogacy

Surrogacy Process in Korea

The surrogacy process in Korea involves several steps for both the intended parents and surrogate:

Intended Parents

– Undergo medical exam and obtain doctor’s certification of need for surrogacy
– Obtain pre-approval from the Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare
– Find and select a potential surrogate mother
– Undergo legal counselling and sign surrogacy agreement
– Fertilize surrogate’s eggs via IVF using intended parent’s sperm/egg
– Cover allowed medical expenses for surrogate
– Take custody of baby upon birth and apply for birth registration

Surrogate Mother

– Undergo medical and psychological evaluation
– Obtain consent from spouse
– Sign legal surrogacy agreement with intended parents
– Undergo IVF procedure to get pregnant
– Carry pregnancy to term and give birth
– Legally relinquish parental rights of baby after delivery

The entire process is closely supervised by the government. Intended parents must keep authorities updated at each step. Surrogacy agreements require approval, and there are limits placed on the number of embryos that can be transferred. Counselling and health checks are mandatory for both parties before embryo transfer.

Why is Surrogacy Restricted in Korea?

Korea has taken a cautious regulatory approach to surrogacy for several reasons:

Ethical Concerns

There are ethical concerns about the potential exploitation of surrogate mothers and commercialization of childbirth when surrogacy is unregulated. Banning commercial surrogacy and allowing only altruistic arrangements reduces this risk.

Protect Traditional Family Structure

Korea places great importance on traditional family values and the preservation of bloodlines. Allowing surrogacy only for married couples with a medical need aligns with these principles.

Prevent Child Trafficking

Unregulated surrogacy can open the door to illegal adoption and child trafficking. Korea’s restrictions aim to prevent this. Requiring intended parents to be Korean citizens allows oversight of each case.

Religious Objections

Some religious groups in Korea have voiced moral objections to surrogacy, calling it unnatural. Strict regulations have helped address these concerns.

Calls to Relax Surrogacy Laws

While Korea adopted a cautious approach, some people argue the restrictions are too prohibitive:

Low Domestic Availability

The strict requirements mean there are fewKorean surrogates available each year relative to demand. This can lead to long waiting times.

Pushes People Abroad

Bans on commercial surrogacy and requirements like being married and heterosexual have pushed some Koreans to seek surrogacy abroad where laws are more relaxed.

Limits Family Options

Advocates for LGBTQ rights argue the restrictions unfairly discriminate and prevent these individuals from forming families through surrogacy.

Creates Inequality

Wealthy couples can more easily travel overseas for surrogacy while it remains inaccessible for many. A domestic, regulated system could allow broader access.

Recent Debate on Surrogacy Laws

There has been some debate in recent years around whether Korea should relax its strict surrogacy laws:

Petitions for Change

In 2021 and 2022, several petitions were submitted calling for allowing unmarried and same-sex couples access to surrogacy. They gained over 10,000 signatures triggering a response from authorities.

Competing Bills Proposed

In 2022, competing legislative bills were introduced by Korean lawmakers. One bill aimed to maintain the status quo. The other sought to allow surrogacy for unmarried individuals.

Government Committee Review

A governmental committee was tasked with reviewing surrogacy regulations. They recommended cautious expansion to single parents with medical needs. No action has been taken yet.

Ongoing Opposition Remains

Many conservative groups and religious organizations continue to oppose any relaxation of surrogacy restrictions to uphold traditional family structures.

Current Situation for Foreigners

Under the current laws, foreigners cannot legally engage in surrogacy arrangements in Korea as intended parents or surrogates. Some key considerations:

Intended Parents

– Foreigners are prohibited from pursuing surrogacy in Korea
– Those who do may face penalties under Korean law
– Must look into other countries allowing surrogacy for foreigners

Surrogate Mothers

– Only Korean citizens can become surrogates in Korea
– Foreign women cannot legally be surrogates even for Korean intended parents


– Illegal for any agency or individual to facilitate surrogacy arrangements between Koreans and foreigners in Korea
– Korean agencies cannot assist foreigners with overseas surrogacy arrangements either

While some clinics may discreetly arrange surrogacy, there are legal risks involved for all parties. Foreign intended parents should look into lawful surrogacy options in other countries.


Surrogacy in Korea is tightly restricted under the Bioethics and Safety Act which only allows altruistic surrogacy by eligible Korean citizens after extensive oversight and approvals. Commercial surrogacy is prohibited. Calls for relaxing the laws to expand access have been met with opposition from conservative groups. Currently, foreigners cannot legally pursue surrogacy in Korea as intended parents or surrogates. While the laws may evolve, Korea is likely to maintain a well-regulated system rather than allowing unrestricted surrogacy. Those looking into surrogacy should seek experienced legal guidance on their options.