South Korea is one of the countries with the lowest childbirth rates globally as more and more young couples decide not to have children.
To promote childbirth, the Seoul Metropolitan Government launched a website called "Seoul Metropolitan Government Information Center for Pregnancy and Childbirth." Rather than gaining a favorable response, the website has been stirring up controversy as many believe it promotes the stereotype that men are not good at doing housework.
In 2019, the Seoul Metropolitan Government opened the site, saying citizens will easily find information about pregnancy and childbirth through the site. The government explained, "The site can induce social attention to overcome the low birthrates and couples who are preparing for pregnancy or are pregnant can easily find information."
The issue with this site was that some of the information and guidelines say that only women are responsible for housework and childcare. Female netizens found the most problem with the guidelines given in the 'End of pregnancy' section.
The site states that pregnant women are responsible for preparing food ahead of their childbirth. The guideline states, "Before going to the hospital, throw away all the old side dishes in the refrigerator and prepare various side dishes that your family can eat in the weeks ahead. Also, prepare instant foods so that your husband, who is not good at cooking, can easily prepare them for himself." It also advises the pregnant woman to do laundry before leaving to give birth by saying, "prepare the white shirts and clean clothes that your husband and children can wear for the three to seven days you are in the hospital."
Other than those guidelines, the site advises that the wife prepares notes for the husband and a list of delivery food services that the husband can order from and also check that all the toiletries such as toilet paper, soap, and toothpaste are sufficiently supplied so that the family does not feel uncomfortable during the time the pregnant wife is in the hospital.
The site also mentioned the wife's duty to have sexual intercourse with her husband. The site advised that "the baby is protected by the placenta and amniotic fluid, so it is okay to have sexual intercourse during pregnancy. However, it is better to decrease the frequency of sexual intercourse. And there are risks of premature birth if the husband forces themselves on the pregnant wife or have intense intercourse. "
Netizens criticized that the site is enforcing gender roles through the guideline as many raised issues. Comments include, "I can't believe they're saying this in 2021," "If the wife doesn't buy the toiletries, can't the husband buy them?" "The husband doesn't know how to cook?" "Omg, it says the wife should prepare the husband's white shirts before she goes to the hospital," "So they're saying the husband is useless?" "Is the wife a maid or something?" "This is why women don't want to have babies in Korea," "The husband forcing themselves on the wife sounds like rape. They should change that phrasing," and "Are the husbands the ones getting pregnant? Shouldn't husbands be preparing everything for the pregnant wife? Not the other way around?"