South Korea has closed a government website showing the number of women aged between 15 and 49 – of childbearing age – by city district and region after a public outcry.
The Ministry of the Interior launched the site, which features a pink-coloured “birth map” on Thursday. On Friday, a notice on the site said it was undergoing corrections to reflect public opinion.
The website was taken offline following criticism the government was trying to shame women for not having babies. Some said the government treated the country’s low birth rate as an issue only for women, pointing out that no pictures of men were used on the website.
Using pink as the main colour, the site contained information on birth rates, child benefits from local governments, average marriage age and other data. On top of the website, it showed a picture of a woman kissing a little girl.
In the birth map, the regions with a higher number of female residents aged 15-49 were colored in dark pink while the regions with a lower number of such women were shown in light pink. The site also featured a ranking of regions by the number of women aged 15 to 49.
Users could look up how many women between those ages resided in their neighbourhood for the past 10 years.
Many users reacted with wonder and anger, saying they did not understand what the number of women who could theoretically get pregnant had to do with encouraging people to have more babies.
“I felt so angered that it blatantly showed how the government saw women’s bodies as the country’s reproductive tools, not that belonging to the woman,” said Lee Min-kyung, a 24-year-old feminism writer. “I felt like nothing has changed and the hatred of women that I have experienced appeared again.”
The government had touted it as a tool to increase the public’s understanding of the country’s low birth rate and compare the benefits from local governments for having a baby or raising a child.
“It was established to encourage local governments to learn and compare other governments’ benefits and to promote free competition,” the ministry said in the press release distributed at the time of its launch. Calls seeking comments were not answered on Friday.
South Korea is struggling to boost its rock-bottom birth rate, one of the lowest among rich countries. This year, the country also saw growth of vocal feminist movements protesting against misogynist views reflected in government policies and pop culture.