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Belated Childbirth Assistance

Posted October. 26, 2005 07:33,   


To increase the childbirth rate, the government is churning out policies such as subsidizing 30 percent of childcare fees, even to households earning 4,000,000 won in monthly income. However, how much help can the government and local government give to households who have many children?

Eom Gye-suk (housewife, 43) who lives in Gumi City, North Gyeongsang Province, is currently three months pregnant. She is having her 12th baby. Eom has severe morning sickness, but she couldn’t go to the hospital after becoming pregnant since she couldn’t afford the doctor’s fee. She has five boys and six girls ranging from two years old to a college freshman. However, she hasn’t had any support or benefits related to childbirth from the national or local governments.

The government cries out saying that the continued low birth rate could ruin the country. However, its aid policy is just a pie in the sky.

The Eoms say that what they cannot endure the most is a social atmosphere where people with many children are treated like criminals. Eom’s husband is a pastor. They have to rely on earnings (about 600,000 won per month) from a church with only 20 followers.

They became eligible to receive the minimum cost of living from the government this year, so they are getting a million won a month. Until last year, they failed to be eligible on the grounds that they had a 10-year-old van.

After being eligible for a subsidy from the government, their children’s tuition fee and the school meal charge were exempted, and they receive some rice every month from the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation. When she gave birth to a girl in 2003, the couple received a 200,000 won exemption of delivery expenses from Gumi Soonchunhyang Hospital.

Eom, who is due to give birth in May next year, said on Tuesday, “Whenever I hear about a childbirth encouragement policy through the media, I feel something is still missing. I hope we can live in a society in which we can happily give birth to a baby and raise him/her, rather than getting help as being categorized as those who receive the minimum cost of living.”

Kwon-Hyo Lee boriam@donga.com