What They Said is a regular series on the quotes Korea is talking about.
The best way to make people have children is…
South Korea has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world. According to the Presidential Committee on Aging Society and Population Policy, last year’s fertility rate was 1.05, meaning that a Korean woman would give birth to 1.05, or one, child in her childbearing years. Considering that replacement-level fertility, as defined by the United Nation’s Population Division, is about 2.1 children per woman, Korea is definitely looking at a decrease in population.
The government has actively taken measures to reverse this trend, investing more than KRW 100 trillion over a decade to implement policies, including maternity leaves, paternity leaves, and even baby bonuses. These policies have been working to a certain extent—for instance, more people are taking time off for maternity and paternity leaves.
Unfortunately, individual policies don’t seem to be affecting the whole low fertility rate situation, as they seem effective only for certain groups. The birth rate among civil servants, who are granted parental leaves for birth and child rearing, guaranteed jobs until retirement, and receive a good amount of pension, is twice that of the national average.
The Moon Jae-in administration is under fire for this, as nothing seems to have changed regarding the handling of the low fertility rate situation. Fortunately (?), they were spared a bit of criticism this month, thanks to National Assembly members who belong to the Liberty Korea Party.
On September 5, Kim Seong-tae, floor leader of the Liberty Korea Party, proposed a plan for birth-led growth. He suggested that the government provide a total of KRW 100 million per child in installments from birth until the day they turn 19.
Then, at a National Assembly forum hosted by the Presidential Committee on Aging Society and Population Policy on September 7, National Assembly member Kim Hak-yong remarked,
Young people these days seem unwilling to have children because they emphasize their own happiness and their own well-being…It’s not like their parents’ generation had a lot of kids because it was easier for them to raise children. Young people need to change their values first.
— Kim Hak-yong, National Assembly member. Sep 7, 2018.
Once again, it’s the “young people” who are to blame for their selfishness.
Jo Seong-sil, the head of Political Mamas, a group of moms with an agenda to improve our society for their children, directly refuted this argument. She asserted that it’s not money or values that are important to mothers. It’s the fact that mothers have to give up what they’ve worked their whole life to achieve in their careers in order to take care of their children.
Many people who decide not to get married or even people who are married and choose not to have children say that the best legacy we can leave to children may be that we don’t bring them out to live in this Hell Joseon.
(Mothers in their 30s and 40s) are from the generation that has experienced complete educational opportunities. College enrollment, women’s wave, alpha girl, these were the words that made the headlines in our days, and I believe it is very significant that the women who have lived through that period become mothers and lose their jobs and the social position that can define them.
People say that for dads to work, they only need the help of their moms and wives temporarily, in just a few important instances. On the other hand, for moms to work, another mother has to come in and take her place.
— Jo Seong-sil, Political Mamas. Sep 11, 2018.
Money’s great, but will KRW 100 million convince those who weren’t thinking about having kids to turn around and have kids? I think it’s time the government realizes that the low fertility issue isn’t going to be resolved by giving out money but by making Hell Joseon a place where people want to have kids.
When the #MeToo movement swept across Korea earlier this year, many women came out and pointed out their accusers, many of whom were people in power. Politicians, film directors, stage directors, poets, and celebrities were accused of harassment at best and rape at worst. One actor even committed suicide after releasing an apology.
On August 14, the court ruled on the very first #MeToo case—former governor of South Chungcheong Province Ahn Hee-jung was found not guilty of sexual offenses against his secretary Kim Ji-eun.
Considering the fact that the defendant is a powerful politician, who is a governor of a province and has been named as a strong presidential candidate for the next election and has the authority to appoint or dismiss the victim, who is an official in special government service, it is reasonable to understand that authority/power was used to commit adultery or assault. However, according to the results of the examination of evidence, there is not enough evidence that suggests that the defendant used or abused power based on his social or political standing over the victim at all times or in general, or oppressed the free will of the victim or other employees through the “existence of power”.
— Jo Byeong-gu, judge, Seoul Western District Court. Aug 14, 2018.
Kim released a statement later on the same day, expressing her disappointment in the court’s decision and her determination to appeal.
Perhaps the result could have been predicted in advance. When the court mentioned “behaving like a victim” and “chastity”, perhaps the result was foreseeable. But I am not going to stop. I am going to live on strongly and prove Ahn Hee-jeong’s criminal conduct through the law. I will fight to the end so that sexual violence committed by those who have power will be judged fairly through the law.
— Kim Ji-eun, Ahn Hee-jung’s former secretary. Aug 14, 2018.
Then on September 19, Lee Yountaek, a renowned stage director who was accused of sexually assaulting and raping eight actresses over seven years, was found guilty and sentenced to six years in prison. The court ruled:
The victims seem to have been encouraged by the #MeToo movement to step up and disclose the damage done to them, albeit late, and therefore not only is there no special reason to doubt the sincerity of their lawsuits but also the individual testimonies are highly credible.
— Hwang Byeong-hun, judge, Seoul Central District Court. Sep 19, 2018.
Now that months have passed, some have begun to deny the charges of sexual assault and violence. Actor Cho Jae-hyun and film director Kim Ki-duk are currently adamantly denying the allegations and have pressed charges against their accusers for defamation. Interest in the #MeToo movement has died down in the past months, but victims continue to suffer secondary victimization.