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Korean Protestant Church unveils plan to boost fertility rate

The Yoido Full Gospel Church will offer financial subsidies to its members to support marriage and child-rearing
People walk past street stalls at Namdaemun Market in Seoul, South Korea, on June 20, 2023. The country is facing a demographic crisis fueled by a record-low birth rate.

People walk past street stalls at Namdaemun Market in Seoul, South Korea, on June 20, 2023. The country is facing a demographic crisis fueled by a record-low birth rate. (Photo: AFP)

Published: February 15, 2024 11:13 AM GMT
Updated: February 15, 2024 11:34 AM GMT

A South Korean Protestant Church has unveiled a five-year plan to boost fertility rate through subsidies and support facilities to tackle low birth rates in the country, says a report.

The Yoido Full Gospel Church will prioritize supporting marriage and child-rearing in the coming years, pastor Lee Young-hoon said during a press conference on Feb. 14, the Korea Times reported.

The pastor also criticized the government for its ineffective mechanisms in tackling the demographic crisis fueled by alarming low birth rates.

“Despite the government's expenditure of trillions of won to resolve this matter, the actual [financial and social] benefits for parents raising children still remain elusive," Lee said.

Lee pointed out that “fostering ideal conditions for marriage and child-rearing” were the key issues to be addressed.

“Our church proposes that the entire society develops a culture of childcare responsibility that is concerned not only with the birth of children but with their proper growth,” Lee said.

The leaders of the largest Protestant church in the country said that they have introduced the concept of "childcare sensitivity," which is like gender sensitivity.

While gender sensitivity highlights discrimination or imbalances in daily life stemming from gender differences, childcare sensitivity identifies discrimination and challenges faced in having and raising children.

The approach aims to encourage society to collectively address and rectify these issues, the Korea Times reported.

Lee also announced a host of activities organized by the church to address the childbirth-related issues that have contributed to the population decline in the country.

Live births in South Korea saw a decline of 4.3 percent from 260,562 in 2021 to 249,186 in 2022, according to the latest data published by state-run Statistics Korea.

The total fertility rate in the country also declined to a record low of 0.7 in the second quarter of 2023, the agency reported.

There were 56,087 newborn babies in the second quarter of 2023, a drop of 6.8 percent in the same period last year.

About 18.4 percent of South Korea’s estimated 51.5 million population are aged 65 and above, the agency reported.

Lee said that the church has increased the childbirth subsidies that have been handed out since 2012 to its members.

More than 5,000 families have been the beneficiaries of the program which saw 5.4 billion won (US$4.04 million) distributed to the congregation’s members.

The church said that it has doubled the childcare subsidy to 2 million Korean won for the first child, 3 million Korean won for the second, 5 million Korean won for the third, and 10 million Korean won for the fourth and onward.

Earlier the amounts were 1 million Korean won for the first child, 2 million Korean won for the second, 5 million Korean won for the third and fourth each, and 10 million Korean won for the fifth onwards.

Lee also announced that the church will enhance the operation of the Vine Center, a residential facility dedicated to single mothers under the age of 24 and their infants.

The church is also planning to expand the usage of its district churches and houses of prayer scattered across the greater Seoul area for after-school programs as additional support, he added.

Lee said that the church aims to foster a culture of respect for women.

The church will implement this by putting more women in leadership posts and empowering them within the church community.

Lee said that the church aims to promote 20 women to serve as church elders — for the first time in its six-decade history — and will continue ordaining female pastors, building on the momentum of appointing 47 women in 2023.

The church will support international students and multicultural families in Korea through the Global Elim Foundation, Lee said.

In 2023, the institution offered 18 students from 10 countries scholarships, and 45 foreign residents here received free counseling in their native languages at the Global Trauma Center.

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