South Korean 'superdads' on paternity leave break with tradition

Wed Dec 23, 2015 4:10pm EST
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By Ju-min Park

SEOUL (Reuters) - It's a weekday morning and Chung Sang-hoon, 34, is at home with his two small children, classical music playing in the background.

Fathers like Chung, who has taken a year of paternity leave from his job in sales with a big foreign company, were once so rare in male-dominated South Korea that they are called "superdads". But their ranks are growing.

"Everything is definitely worth it, from preparing breakfast for the kids to doing the dishes, because I can live for the sake of values I find important," said Chung, whose wife is a teacher.

South Korean women have long believed employers punish them with lower wages and by passing over them for promotions because they're likely to take time off to have children.

That concern among women has contributed to the lowest birth rate among countries in the OECD group of rich nations.

South Korea also ranks 115th of 145 in the World Economic Forum's gender equality index.

President Park Geun-hye has made paternity leave a priority to address the declining birth rate and give a boost to women's careers, and this month she unveiled a multi-billion plan to combat the grim demographic outlook.

Even though mothers and fathers are entitled to equal amounts of childcare leave, just 3,421 men took advantage of the right in 2014. Still, that was double the 1,790 in 2012 who put down the laptops to pick up the children on a full-time basis, according to the labor ministry.   Continued...

Jeon Jeong-mi (C) talks with her children after work at their apartment in Seoul, South Korea, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji