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After 31-year-old Yong Hyen, a key income earner, brought his 2-month-old son to work on July 5, photos of him surfaced on social media.

He held a press conference that day calling for the passage of a bill that would allow lawmakers to enter a plenary session with a baby in need of care. According to the current law, only legislators, the Prime Minister, members of the State Council and persons authorized by the Speaker of the Assembly are allowed.

When her photos became headlines, opinions split. Some have accused Jong of taking steps to strengthen women’s rights to political rights, while others have accused him of bringing the baby to work and demanding preferences for politicians.

“I was surprised by the controversy because there were more of them than I thought,” Yon told The Korea Herald.

“But I soon realized that this could be a chance,” said the leader of the nation’s small progressive party.

The same bill, which was first proposed by Republican Shin Bo-ra in 2018, did not attract much attention. But this time, after Yon’s press conference came to the fore, he was able to persuade 60 lawmakers, including leaders of the ruling opposition parties, to take part in the bill.

“When I visited the tax leaders, they both supported me. I have not seen lawmakers who strongly oppose it. It seems that the bill will be adopted during the 21st congress without much difficulty. “

Yon refuted allegations that the bill was designed to treat only politicians. She believes that this is more related to women’s political participation and suffrage.

“(In the current political conditions), when parental-parliamentary activities collide, the mother politicians have no choice but to choose child care. “It’s like telling a woman not to get involved in politics.”

Many countries allow mother politicians to bring their children to work. In the United States, Australia, New Zealand, politicians in the European Parliament can participate in the plenary session with small children, breastfeeding.

“Women’s participation in politics is higher in those countries,” she said.

According to the latest IEC data, as of 2019, the percentage of women parliamentarians in those countries was generally higher than in South Korea.

In Sweden իայում in Finland the share of women politicians was 47.3% և 47%. Spain, France and Portugal respectively showed 41.1%, 39.7 և 35.7%. In New Zealand բաժ Australia բաժ the share was 40 և 30%.

In more politically conservative countries, such as Korea and Japan, the share of women politicians was 17.1 և 10.2% each. In Japan, a female politician’s partner was expelled from a conference to bring her child in 2017.

The issue of educating politicians in Korea has not been a major issue at the male-dominated convention, where only three politicians have so far become mothers during their tenure.

The first politician to give birth was In Ang Han in 2015, who did not take any maternity leave. Next in 2018 was Shin Bo-ran, who took a 45-day maternity leave. She asked for a plenary session with her child, but the speaker refused. The third is Yong, who took a 60-day vacation.

“I hope the next mother politician can have a longer maternity leave,” she said.

There is no maternity leave for lawmakers in Korea, as they are not considered employees of the labor standards law. So Shin-yong took a day off asking for permission from the speaker to be absent for the plenary session.

Abroad, when women politicians give birth, there are more options, such as appointing a proxy or voting by remote voting, in addition to maternity leave. But Korea has a long way to go.

“Korea’s assembly has been slow to adopt electronic or remote voting systems. “Appointing a proxy is also not easy, as Korea is more politically centered than a party in Europe.”

With that said, Yong believes the nation’s conservative assembly is changing.

“I believe that disputes over the invitation of a child to a gathering or the maternity leave of politicians are a good sign that it is changing,” he said.

“Changes are happening because I think more young people are involved in politics, they are putting a new agenda on the table.”

At present, 13 out of 300 legislators are 20-30 years old, which is the highest number in the country’s political history. There were three in the 20th National Assembly.

Young politicians raise more liberal issues, such as gender equality, basic income, environment, and animal rights.

Yong is currently working on legislation to increase male participation in child care, prevent women from taking career breaks, reduce gender pay gaps, and reduce the burden on individuals during pregnancy and childbirth.

“Due to the controversy, I believe that my next bills on women and parents will get more attention at the conference.”

Shin Ji i-hi (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)

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