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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 22)

All News 07:13 January 22, 2016

Child care crisis

The meeting came amid rising public indignation toward a standoff between the central government and the local education offices as to which side will fund the multi-trillion won Nuri Curriculum that has so far alleviated budgetary burdens for kindergartens and day care facilities for children aged 3-5. It would have been the course of a responsible president to at least acknowledge the daycare crisis and direct the relevant ministries to properly respond to it at the meeting. But she did not mention the issue at all.

The Nuri row is not just an education issue, but also a women's issue. It is unfortunate that the policymakers do not seem to wholeheartedly understand how important the maintenance of the Nuri program is from the perspective of the mothers. It is especially important for the working mothers, who need a place to care for their children while they are away at their jobs. Already, some moms in areas affected by the cuts in the Nuri program grants are reportedly considering withdrawing their children due to increased tuition. Parents in these regions have received notices for a possibility of at least a 220,000 won increase in monthly tuition, which is a considerable amount.

With Park's glaring silence on the issue, many women cannot help but get the impression that child care does not feature prominently in Park's welfare agenda. For some women, the reduced child care subsidy may mean a country unwilling to invest in childcare and in helping moms raise their children, ultimately discouraging women from childbirth. In fact, one of the reasons for Korea's low birth rate is that more women shun having children because of the costs and other burdens related to child care. Therefore, it is the president's duty, as head of the Presidential Committee on Ageing Society and Population Policy, to assuage concerns parents have about the Nuri program.

During the meeting, President Park said that her administration aims to build a country that promotes the quality of women's lives by creating an environment where working women are able to raise children without excessive financial burdens and strains on their careers. If this is true, then her administration should show the determination to swiftly negotiate a budgetary solution to sustain the free daycare program.

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