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Mayor reiterates plan for free day care in capital

Those who can’t get into public centers will be reimbursed
Oct 29,2018
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon emphasized over the weekend that the city plans to provide most day care services in the city for free starting next year.

“In South Korea, we are witnessing both an aging society and low birthrate,” Park said to an audience at City Hall on Saturday for the Seoul Welfare Expo. “The responsibility to provide care for others per individual is therefore growing in this society. I will not make every citizen of Seoul bear this responsibility alone.

“The Seoul city government will take care of your welfare,” he said. “We will provide more open community day care centers. From next year, we will also be paying for private day care center fees for those who had to send their kids to a private day care center.”

Park’s comments were a reiteration of a plan announced by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in February.

“From 2019, the city government will fund the education fees for children aged 3 to 5 who are attending private day care centers in Seoul,” it said in a statement on Feb. 21.

The city government said at the time that the parents of the children aged from 3 to 5 who attend private day care centers in Seoul pay an average of 68,000 won ($59.70) to 83,000 won more per month for their children’s education, compared to the parents who send their kids to a public day care center.

“Of these, the city government has been providing some 22,000 won to 28,000 won per kid per month,” it said. “We are about to fund these parents fully so that they will not pay any more than those who send their kids to a public day care center.”

In Korea, children can attend a day care center between the ages of 0 to 7 and can also attend a kindergarten between the ages of 3 to 7. The two are managed by different ministries. The Ministry of Education manages kindergartens, and the Ministry of Health and Welfare manages day care centers.

The Seoul city government’s plan to fund private day care center fees does not specify whether they will also cover additional fees for children aged from 0 to 2 who attend private day care centers. The so-called open community day care centers mentioned by the mayor are communal spaces furnished with toys and books run by the city government and provide programs that parents and children can participate in together.

“Seoul is home to 105,634 children aged from 0 to 5 who do not attend a private or public day care center,” the city government said in its statement in February. “That’s about 24.6 percent of all children in that age group in Seoul.”

“The open community day care centers are free for any parent who lives in Seoul with a child aged from 0 to 5,” the city government says on its website.

There are currently about 50 centers throughout the city. The city government intends to expand the number to 450 by 2022.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]