Published online by Cambridge University Press: 09 November 2019
Artificial Insemination, or Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), and In Vitro Fertilisation-Embryo Transfer (IVF-ET) are two major forms of reproductive technologies. The former refers to a process whereby sperm is injected directly into a woman's cervix or uterine cavity by, for example, syringe, while the latter refers to a process whereby an embryo is formed in a glass vial outside of a woman's body (in vitro) and then transferred to the womb. The main purpose of these techniques is to assist couples with infertility issues, though today's applications of these technologies are not limited to this purpose.
These reproductive technologies divide the process of conception into a few critical steps: retrieval of sperm and eggs, selection of useable sperm and egg, combination of sperm and egg to form an embryo, and embryo transfer into a female's womb. Consequently, this process made it technically possible to intervene in each step; for instance, by choosing the specific sperm, egg, womb, cell, and/or embryo to be used – as well as whose egg, sperm, and womb will be used. Currently, even the embryo itself can be manipulated.
In terms of family law, the most important step is the choice of whose cell or body will be involved in the process. More specifically, this step often includes the possibility that a third party's sperm, egg, embryo or womb will be used to create a baby for the parents-to-be. What if a woman creates a baby not with her husband's or partner 's sperm but with a donor's sperm (Artificial Insemination by Donor, or AID), not with her own egg but with a donor's egg (Egg Donation), not with their sperm and egg but with a donor's embryo (Embryo Donation), or through another woman's womb (Surrogacy)? Then, who are the legal parents of the baby? In these cases, how is a parent-child relationship established? What are the relationships between all related parties, and when can these practices be allowed at all? In this regard, family law and medical law are independent of but closely related to each other.
All of these practices, especially AID and surrogacy, have been and are currently performed in Korea. Nonetheless, these issues seem to have remained on a somewhat theoretical level in Korea thus far.