A survey cited by experts has revealed that the longstanding South Korean preference for sons over daughters has finally shifted amid changing social trends.
Researchers asked couples expecting a child whether they wanted a daughter or a son. Some 38 percent of expectant mothers said they wanted a daughter, 31 percent wanted a son and the rest had no preference.
Among fathers-to-be, 37 percent wanted a daughter and 29 percent a son while the remainder had no preference.
Researchers surveyed 2,078 households before the mothers gave birth from April to July 2008.
They said it marked the first time in South Korea, formerly a strongly patriarchal society, that a preference for baby girls over boys was confirmed in a nationwide survey.
"Sons' roles as a means to continue family bloodlines and to support ageing parents are considered less and less valuable," Lee Jeong-Rim, a researcher with the Korea Institute of Childcare and Education, told AFP.
She said there was a growing trend for old people to rely on previously unavailable social safety networks rather than moving in with a son.
"Many parents prefer a baby girl to a baby boy as they believe a daughter will bring them greater happiness and family unity than a son," said Lee, who led the 2008 survey.
Other statistics also reflect the declining preference for baby boys.
The ratio of baby boys to girls peaked at 116.5 to 100 in 1990, apparently indicating that female foetuses were aborted.
The ratio has since been falling steadily to 106.4 boys for every 100 girls in 2008, which falls within the international average of 103-107.