SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean lawmaker came under fire this week after he scolded a female nominee to the country's antitrust body for not having a child to fulfill her duty to the nation.
Jeong Kab-yoon, a veteran member of the conservative opposition Liberty Party Korea, made the controversial remarks at a confirmation hearing on Monday for Joh Sung-wook, an unmarried economics professor.
"You're not married yet, are you?" Jeong asked during the hearing, according to Yonhap News Agency.
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"The biggest problem in South Korea is that (women) are not giving birth," Yonhap quoted him as saying. "You would have been a perfect nominee, if you have had such qualification."
Jeong was chastised by other politicians at the hearing and apologized to Joh.
Womens' rights groups condemned Jeong's remarks and said he should be disciplined by parliament.
"Making remarks about marriage and birth to a nominee based on a gender at a confirmation hearing is an outright sexual discrimination during a hiring process and a serious violation of women's civil and labor rights," the Korean Women's Association United said in a statement.
South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, is grappling with a chronically low birth rate as many women are reluctant to have babies.
To boost the country's birthrate, the world's lowest, the government has poured billions of dollars into various subsidies for families and children from birth through university and beyond.
South Korea's total fertility rate, an average number of children a woman will have in her life, dropped to a record low of 0.98 in 2018, according to data from Statistics Korea.