HomeAsiaSouth Korea wants more babies, but not in these places

South Korea wants more babies, but not in these places

SEOUL — South Korea has the lowest birthrate in the world, but parents say the government isn’t making it easy for them to have children when hundreds of public facilities across the country are designated as “kid-free zones.”

Earlier this month, a lawmaker brought her young son to the National Assembly and called on the government to ban the policy, which allows restaurants, museums, cafes and other establishments to bar children from entering.

In her speech, Yong Hye-in, a representative of the Basic Income Party, said that it is increasingly difficult to raise a family in cities that ban children from certain areas. Getting rid of no-kid zones and creating a more child-accepting society would help the country overcome its low birth rate, he said.

“Life with a child is not easy,” Ms. Yong said as she held her son in the National Assembly. “But still, we have to recreate a society where we can coexist with our children.”

Last year, South Korea had a birth rate of 0.78according to government figures. Many young couples in the country are choosing not to have children due to the rising costs of childcare and housing, job shortages and growing anxiety about the future. For years, the government has offered incentives such as hundreds of dollars worth of monthly subsidies to families with children, but has failed to adequately address the demographic crisis.

There are hundreds of no-go zones for children in South Korea. The National Library of Korea, for example, prohibits entry to anyone under the age of 16 without special permission. (Recently, some places have also tried to ban seniors, sparking a debate online.)

This is the second time that Ms. Yong has appeared in the National Assembly with her son. In the summer of 2021, she came with her son when she was only a few weeks old. The National Assembly prohibits entry to anyone other than assembly members and authorized personnel, and is itself considered a no-kids zone.

Ms. Yong introduced the “Accompaniment of Children in the National Assembly House Act” in 2021, which calls for babies under 24 months to be allowed on the main floor of the legislature. The bill has yet to be passed.

The debate over where children should and should not be allowed has been ongoing for years, and not only in South Korea. Angry travelers often ask why airlines don’t introduce designated seating areas for families with small children.

Several countries, including Australia and the United States, allow children inside government buildings. Babies were first allowed on the Senate floor in Washington after Senator tammy duckworthwhose presence was needed to confirm a new NASA administrator, gave birth to a daughter less than two weeks before the 2018 vote.

Stella Creasy, a member of the British parliament, was reprimanded in 2021 for bringing her baby to Westminster Hall in London.

Ms. Yong was born in 1990 in Bucheon, a city on the outskirts of Seoul, and became a legislator in 2020. In addition to getting rid of no-kid zones, she also plans to introduce legislation that would allow children and their families to Avoid lines at places like museums and amusement parks.

there’s almost 3.5 million children under the age of 10 in South Korea, and more than 11,000 public facilities designed for children’s play, according to government statistics.

Public opinion on child-free zones suggests that most South Koreans support them. TO survey 2022 by Hankook Research, a Seoul-based polling company, showed that 73 percent of respondents were in favor of child-free zones, while only 18 percent were against it. (Another 9 percent of respondents were undecided.)

Supporters of the policy say children can be a nuisance to customers. “Usually I go to cafes to study, I don’t want to be interrupted by crying children,” Lee Chan-hee, an engineering student in Seoul who frequents a cafe that bans children, said in an interview this week.

Other reasons to support the zones include the prevention of accidents and property damage, as well as injuries to young children. Protection of the rights of small business owners was also considered.

But the tide may be turning.

The push to get rid of no-kid zones gained momentum last week when the health and welfare safety committee on Jeju Island, a popular tourist destination on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula, deliberated an ordinance that would abolish the No-kid zones throughout the island. .

The island’s legislators will hold a session later this month to decide whether or not to approve the bill. If passed, it will be the first law of its kind in South Korea.

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