Chung Sang-hoon, 34, has taken a year off of his intensive sales job to stay at home with his children.
Taking paternity leave was previously unheard of in South Korea. Now, a small group of “superdads” are joining a growing, government-encouraged movement.
“The reason I took childcare leave is I want to be different from my father’s generation,” Sang-hoon said. “Everything is definitely worth it, from preparing breakfast to doing the dishes. I can live for the sake of values I find important.”
His wife, Jeon Jeong-mi, said her husband taking paternity leave has been a huge help to her career.
“I can work without feeling pressure,” she told Reuters. “I don’t have to worry about home. And I do not have to go home early. Also, I do not need to feel sorry for my kids whenever I go to work in the morning.”
These “superdads” are challenging gender roles in South Korea, where men are expected to work long hours and be minimally involved with raising kids.
The country’s rigid gender expectations have led South Korean women to believe they’re being punished in the workplace because they may have to take time off to care for their kids down the road, per Reuters.
As a result, South Korea has the lowest birth rate of wealthy nations, which is why South Korean President Park Geun-hye has made increasing the number of men who take paternity leave a priority — both to address the low birth rate and to give women’s careers a boost.
While only 5% of the total number of parents in South Korea who took leave in the first half of 2015 were men, this number has increased from the previous year. The government is aiming to have it be 30% by 2030.
“The culture of long work hours needs to be improved so as to allow more time for men to get involved with childcare and family,” Hong Seung-ah, a fellow at the Korean Women’s Development Institute in Seoul, told Reuters.
Story by Allan Smith and editing by Kristen Griffin
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