No Respect for Pregnant Women On Korea’s Subways

Video from KBS News

Priority seats for pregnant women are just talk, in reality using them is futile.

Money that the government has invested in creating priority seating for pregnant women in subways turns out to not be serving its intended purpose.

People are by and large unaware of what these seats are for, and awareness campaigns are scarce. This causes a problem when trying to utilize these seats, and in reality this means that pregnant women are unable to take advantage of their priority seating. These seats are now becoming simply, seats that must be given up in consideration [to others or the elderly.]

Kim Soo-hyun is a pregnant woman on her way home from work. She is standing inside the subway car right in front of one of these “consideration” seats.

Kim even after sticking a sign on her bag that notifies others of her pregnant status, no one will give up their seat for her.

In an interview, she said that, “I don’t have a lot of energy, because my morning sickness is really bad, and I can’t eat a lot. It’s been very hard for me when I can’t sit down, and I have to stand the whole time [on the subway].”

Priority seating for pregnant women is marked with a sticker, and is located at both ends of the center seats in every car.

Despite this, many people are unaware of them, and there are many people who do not respect the sticker.

Lee Seung-jong from Seoul’s Gangseo-gu told us, “Yeah, I’ve seen the stickers. I remember them.” [We asked if] he knew where those stickers were located, and he answered, “I can’t say for sure.”

Jeong Hyun-kyeong revealed, “I’ve seen the seat given up for office workers who look really tired, but it doesn’t seem to be given up to others that often.”

The problem is how they are used. The sticker demarcating the priority seating is often hidden, and you can’t find them in every single train. Given this situation, only 1 in 3 pregnant women have experienced being given a seat, and annual complaints about the issue are piling up.

Bae Hyo-eun, a pregnant woman commented, “It seems like a meaningless gesture. They stuck the pregnant women’s priority seating sticker on there, but it isn’t really any different than a regular seat.”

Since 2013, approximately 34 million won has been spent on these stickers. This year’s budget includes funds to update the sticker design.

However these seats will remain virtually useless until everyday people begin to understand who they are for, and the system [for priority seating] is improved.

Comments from Naver:


Can’t pregnant women also sit in the seats for the elderly and physically impaired?


First and foremost, I think the elderly need to pay the fare to ride the subway. I mean, do they not have anywhere else to hang out?


The elderly are the problem. If pregnant women sit there, [the old people] give them these looks. tsk tsk tsk


It’s funny that there’s separate seats [for pregnant women] keke Why don’t we combine them with the elderly and physically impaired seating and just call them “priority seating”?


If we just solved the old people problem~


When I was 8 months pregnant a 30-something man gave his seat to me on the subway but ㅠㅠ then an old man who had just gone hiking got angry and complained that the older people are standing while the young people are sitting, so eventually I just stood up. It really surprised me that the younger people were the ones to give up their seats.


Old people ride for free and steal seats all while wearing hiking clothes. If you have enough strength to go hiking, do you really have to steal seats from high school kids who just finished nighttime study sessions, tired college students and office workers? But also you steal the pregnant women’s priority seats. When I say these things, you will ask me if I don’t think I might be old someday, too. But I won’t become a stubborn and stupid old person like you.


Whenever a pregnant woman sits in the elderly and physically impaired seats, an older person will always come by asking why such a young person is sitting there. So even if the woman says she’s pregnant, they get mad at her like how dare this young person go against me.


Those old people on the Gyeongchoon Line or Line 1 going to Cheonan go around wearing hiking clothes in swarms, and it’s infuriating seeing them stealing seats from office workers or students.


Priority seats for the elderly and physically impaired aren’t just for the elderly … [but] only the elderly can sit there, so they had to make different priority seats for pregnant women… This is a waste of funds.


I heard some grandpa scolded a pregnant woman [who was sitting in a priority seat] saying the baby is not his grandchild, kekekeke. Then, he is not my grandpa but I have to let him ride the subway for free with my tax money!


Seats for the physically impaired and elderly are not old people seats.


There are quite a few grandpas who don’t act their age and make a fuss about pregnant women in priority seats. They don’t listen even if the women say they are pregnant.


There really are no words for those old grannies who tell pregnant women to give up their seats.


It’s even harder to get a seat if its the beginning of pregnancy and your belly hasn’t started sticking out yet.. when you start to get bigger, everyone can see [that you’re pregnant] and you can get a seat. I don’t worry about going to sit in the disabled and elderly seats.


Why are they using public funds to update the design [of the seats]? kekekekke It’s pointless.


Once when I was pregnant I sat in the priority seats for elderly and disabled, and then this old man just kept yelling at me. It was hard [to stand] so I sat down and I was so embarrassed… I got up again, and when he saw my huge belly he said he was sorry, but being in the subway with lots of eyes on us, I was worried someone might take a video of what happened and upload it online.


It’s all because old people never ever give up their seats.


It’d be better to just make them [pregnancy]-only [so nobody else can ever sit there], otherwise the old people will never let go of their seats.

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