Tag Archive | "childcare"

Unprotected Minors in South Korea

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • According to the National Center for the Rights of the Child (NCRC), year-on-year number of child abuse cases dropped by 449 to 6,887 in the first quarter of 2020.
  • Nonetheless, two dramatic child abuse cases recently became public. A 9-year-old boy died after being locked in a suitcase by his father’s partner. A 9-year-old girl escaped from her parents who were physically abusing her.
  • The Ministry of Justice is moving to revise the country’s civil law which had guaranteed parents the right to use corporal punishment on their children.

Implications: Recent child abuse cases revealed that the government’s traditional aversion to intervening in family issues has resulted in inadequate protections for children. While data from the NCRC suggests a falling number of child abuse cases, others suspect that the numbers are underreported in 2020 because the pandemic has prevented children from being in public places where signs of abuse can be detected. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the number of suspected child abuse cases had been constantly rising. 24,604 cases were reported in 2018, more than double the 2014 figure of 10,027. 77% of these cases were perpetrated by the victims’ parents. In addition, 82% of children who were abused are returned home under the current system because Article 4-3 of the Child Welfare Act stipulates that “the state and local governments should support children to quickly return to their homes.”

Context: According to a survey conducted in 2019, 47% of the public opposed the adoption of any amendment that would prohibit parents from punishing their children. Meanwhile, only 44.3% of respondents approved this proposed revision. This echoed the split in public opinion when South Koreans debated the abolition of corporal punishment in schools in 2012. Despite initial pushback, the share of the population that supported the ban on physical punishments in school increased to 83.7% by 2014.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of James Constant, Sonia Kim, and Ingyeong Park.

Photo from hjl’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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South Korea’s Unsupervised Children

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • On March 4, three children died in a house fire. There were no adults on location.
  • On February 19, a seven-year-old child died while alone at home with her brother.
  • Last year, the government implemented a law to prevent children from being left alone on school buses.
  • According to the 2015 Korea Consumer Agency survey, 69.1% of child accidents occur in homes.

Implications: The government’s childcare intervention in South Korea is limited because of strongly-held cultural attitudes. Most families do not consider leaving a child alone at home as neglect. Despite recurring accidents affecting unattended children, no legal actions have been taken to set minimum age requirements or guidelines at which minors can be left unsupervised at home. Childcare is traditionally considered a private matter in South Korea and public intervention is not welcomed. Consequently, while the government has promulgated a series of child protection measures in public spaces, such as school buses, private homes remain mostly off-limits to public policy in South Korea.

Context: Beyond childcare, South Korean society traditionally has a negative attitude towards social intervention in family issues. For instance, gender inequality within the family has been a persistent issue in South Korea. However, the government’s efforts to promote gender equality and work-life balance of women have reportedly yielded gradual improvements. Such government measures were advanced by women themselves. It is difficult to expect a similar level of advocacy for child protection, however, since children are largely barred from policy advocacy.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Gordon Henning, Soojin Hwang, Hyungim Jang, and Ingyeong Park.

Photo from hjl’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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South Korea’s Dad Dilemma: More Fathers Take Paternity Leave but Large Gap Remains

By Jenna Gibson 

The South Korean government has been pretty creative in its search for a solution to their rock bottom birth rate – from subsidies for fertility treatment to encouraging employees to go home without saying goodbye to their boss. But one of the country’s giant conglomerates is taking a more drastic step by mandating that their male employees take a month off after having a child.

Lotte Group, which employs 180,000 people in Korea, announced at its recent “Way of Women” forum that they will start mandating paternity leave next year. They will also pay for the difference between the government’s subsidy of 1 million won ($853) and the employee’s full salary for a month of leave. They will also extend maternity leave from one year to two, and guarantee full pay for at least a month.

With this policy, Lotte is ahead of the curve – while South Korea guarantees a year of paternity leave for those that wish to take it, very few men choose to do so. Changing corporate culture and expectations could be key – in interviews conducted by Munhwa Daily this fall, men cited perception as one of the main reasons they chose not to take advantage of parental leave. One said he would be labeled a “weirdo” at work for being the only one in his office to take paternity leave. Another said he feared he would have a harder time moving up in his career and providing for his family afterwards.

Uphill Battle

South Korean fathers are notorious for spending very little time on household chores, including childcare. According to a 2014 OECD study, South Korean men spend the least amount of time in the OECD on “unpaid work,” setting aside only 45 minutes a day for routine housework, shopping and childcare. In contrast, Korean women spend nearly four hours per day on these types of tasks.

Korea’s strict work culture certainly plays a role. When Korean workers are spending an average of 347 hours longer at work each year than their OECD peers, something’s got to give. And, more often than not, the burden falls to women. While more women are trying to reset the work-life balance, they still often feel pressure to put their careers on hold after starting a family, leading to a noticeable dip in women’s workforce participation among 20-40 year olds.

But work culture also affects men who would otherwise like to spend more time with their families. Despite Korea providing a generous 52 weeks of paternity leave for new dads, only 4,872 men took advantage of leave in 2015, just 5.6 percent of the 87,339 people who took childcare leave last year.

The imbalance in which parent provides childcare has caused more than marital strife – experts have pointed to the issue as one of the root causes for Korea’s chronically low birth rate. Without the guarantee of a reliable parenting partner, Korean women have continued to delay marriage and childbirth. South Korean has made father-targeted programs a priority, aiming to increase the number of fathers taking paternity leave and spending time with their children.

Paternity Graphic Draft 2

Signs of Progress

While the wide gap remains, men are participating more in child-rearing than ever before. While the number of men taking paternity leave in 2015 is still minuscule, it does represent a steady increase. In fact, five times more Korean men took paternity leave in 2015 than in 2010.

Part of this could be due to the explosive popularity of television shows that revolve around fathers. One, called “Dad! Where are We Going?” followed a group of celebrity dads taking their kids on camping trips around Korea. The show got great reviews, and has been remade in China, Vietnam and Japan.

Another, “Return of Superman” shows the daily life of celebrity dads when they’re left alone with their kids. The key here is the growth of these fathers over time – when they first appear on the show, many of them have no clue how to cook basic meals or change their babies’ diapers. Viewers can relate to these struggles, and also learn some parenting techniques along with the dads on screen.

The families that appear on these shows have become household names – the Song triplets, three adorable toddlers who appeared on “Return of Superman” for two years with their actor father, were rated the fifth most popular celebrities in Korea in 2015. The kids raked in $4.26 million from appearing in 11 different ad campaigns in 2015.

But these super dads may be influencing more than just viewer’s shopping habits – they may be pushing more Korean fathers to up their parenting prowess.

While it may seem like a stretch to say that a TV show could influence viewers’ behavior so drastically, there have been plenty of cases around the world that show otherwise. In India, for example, a hyper-popular soap opera led to an increased interest in marrying for love. And a South African show increased awareness in HIV/AIDs prevention among its viewers.

Even in Korea it’s easy to see the impact of celebrities – after actress Song Hye Kyo was seen applying a Laneige lipstick in the powerhouse drama Descendants of the Sun, the product began flying off shelves. And sales of the Hyundai Tucson SUV rose 10 percent in the month after it appeared on the show.

Of course, choosing which lipstick to buy is a long way from changing your parenting style, but there is some evidence that Korean parents are taking note of these celebrity dads. In a recent survey of Korean women with children under the age of 3, for example, the moms indicated that “Return of Superman” did have some impact on their husbands’ behavior.

When asked if their husbands are similar to those shown on TV, 40 percent of moms said “My husband is somewhat different from the ones presented on TV shows, but he tries really hard.” The second most common response, at 25.8 percent, was “My husband tries to spend spare time with the kids, and resembles the hero daddies on TV from time to time.” Still, 21.8 percent of the women agreed with the sentiment that while their husbands take some responsibility for child-rearing, the example shown by celebrity dads on TV are somewhat unrealistic for the average husband.

At the same time, when asked which “Return of Superman” star is their favorite, the most popular answer was actor Ki Tae-young, who was described as a father who diligently educates himself on parenting techniques. We may find that the only force powerful enough to overcome workplace stigma might be Korean entertainment.

Jenna Gibson is the Director of Communications at the Korea Economic Institute of America. The views expressed here are the author’s alone. KEI interns Sungeun (Grace) Chung and Min Tae Chung assisted with research and translation for this post.

Image from Photo and Share CC’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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