Sunday 15 September 2019

South Korea shuts website mapping women of childbearing age

A kissing couple is silhouetted against illuminations celebrating Christmas at Ilsan Lake Park in Goyang, South Korea (AP)
A kissing couple is silhouetted against illuminations celebrating Christmas at Ilsan Lake Park in Goyang, South Korea (AP)

A South Korean government website which drew widespread condemnation for showing the number of women of childbearing age has been closed.

The ministry of the interior's site - which features pink birth maps displaying the number of women aged 15-49 in the regions and city districts - remains closed on Friday, a day after its launch.

It now displays a notice saying that the site is undergoing corrections to reflect public opinion.

The website went offline after just a few hours following claims the government is trying to shame women for not having babies, in light of South Korea's low birth rate.

Some critics said the government treated the birth rate issue as concerning only women, pointing out that no picture of men was used on the website.

Using pink as the main colour, the site contained information on birth rates, benefits from local governments on child rearing, average marriage age and other data.

In the birth map, the regions with a higher number of female residents aged 15-49 were coloured dark pink, while the regions with a lower number of such women were shown in light pink. The site also featured a ranking of regions by the number of women aged 15-49.

Users could also look up how many women who can have a baby have lived in their neighbourhood for the past 10 years.

Many users reacted angrily, saying they do not understand what displaying the number of women who can get pregnant has to do with encouraging people to have more babies.

"I felt so angered that it blatantly showed how the government saw women's bodies as the country's reproductive tools, not belonging to the women," said Lee Min-kyung, a 24-year-old writer.

"I felt like nothing has changed and the hatred of women that I have experienced has appeared again."

The government had touted the site as a tool to increase the public's understanding of the country's low birth rate and compare the benefits from local governments for having a baby or raising a child.

The ministry said of the site: "It was established to encourage local governments to learn and compare other governments' benefits and to promote free competition."

South Korea has struggled to boost its rock-bottom birth rate, one of the lowest among more affluent countries.

This year, the country also saw a growth in vocal feminist movements protesting against misogynist views reflected in government policies and pop culture.

PA Media

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