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Lawmaker's call to abolish ‘no kids zones’ sparks controversy

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : May 5, 2023 - 17:01

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Basic Income Party Rep. Yong Hye-in gives a speech with her 23-month-old son in her arms at the National Assembly, Seoul, Thursday. (Yong's Facebook page) Basic Income Party Rep. Yong Hye-in gives a speech with her 23-month-old son in her arms at the National Assembly, Seoul, Thursday. (Yong's Facebook page)

A South Korean lawmaker's call for the abolition of “no kids zones” in certain restaurants and venues met a divided response from the public Friday.

Rep. Yong Hye-in of the minor progressive Basic Income Party on Thursday claimed that many private restaurants and public venues adopt “no kids” policies without reasonable grounds.

“Today, popular cafes and restaurants on Instagram and even public libraries have become ‘no kids zones,’” Yong said during a speech at the National Assembly in Seoul, while carrying her 23-month-old son in her arms.

“We must abolish these zones starting with public venues. There are so many cases where these public venues adopt the rules with lack of reasonable grounds including the National Library of Korea,” she added.

Only visitors aged 16 and older can use the National Library of Korea to protect its materials from being stolen or damaged, according to the state-run library’s website. Visitors younger than 16 must file a separate application and receive permission from the library in order to enter.

Yong also pointed to Japan’s “fast-track” policy where children and their parents are prioritized when entering public museums, galleries and parks as a solution to Korea’s low birthrate.

“What we want is a society that embraces not only the fast and the competent, but also the slow and the inexperienced. In order to overcome one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, we must overhaul the society that rejects children and the elderly,” she explained.

But Yong’s proposal received public backlash from critics saying that she missed the point of the “no kids zones” in the first place.

A comment under a local news covering the Thursday’s event on the country’s largest internet portal Naver read, “I’m a parent, but I’m not against ‘no kids zones.'” It added that the policy was adopted in the first place because of irresponsible parents and not the children. The comment had gained 833 likes as of Friday afternoon.

According to a survey of 1,000 South Koreans by Hankook Research in 2021, 71 percent of the respondents believed it was the right of business owners to adopt “no kids zones” at their venues. Only 17 percent said the existence of the policy was “unacceptable.”

The whirlwind of events comes after some lawmakers belonging to the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea recently proposed a bill that aims to abolish all “no-kids zones” on Jeju Island.