A male South Korean politician has drawn a sharp rebuke from his female colleagues after he told a nominee for a top economic post that she is “failing to fulfill her duty to the nation” by being single and not having kids.
Jeong Kab-yoon, a Liberty Korea party national assembly member, made the controversial remarks to economics professor Joh Sung-wook during her confirmation hearing this week to be the leader of South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission, according to The Guardian.
“I’m aware that you are still single and the biggest problem in South Korea is that women are not giving birth,” the Yonhap news agency quoted him as saying. “You have a great résumé but please fulfill your duties to the nation.”
Female lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea have since hit back at Jeong’s comments, writing in a statement recently published in the Korea Times that he “seems to believe women giving birth and rearing children is the only way for them to contribute to the country” and that he is “unqualified to be a lawmaker in today’s society.”
Jeong has tried to quell the uproar by claiming he didn’t mean to insult the Seoul National University professor and only wanted to draw attention to the country’s low fertility rate, The Guardian reported, citing the Korea Herald.
Data from the World Bank in 2017 shows South Korea’s birth rate of 1.1 was lower than its northern neighbor’s 1.9.
That number fell to .98 last year as women there continue to hold off on having children over concerns about balancing jobs with raising families, according to The Guardian.