Week 9: Subway Seats

In most countries, it is considered that pregnant women should be cared for, especially in public transit. With their burgeoning belly, it is hard for them to secure a balance in wavering subway or bus. Even the women whose pregnancy is in its early periods should take a seat because of morning sickness. However, in Korea, pregnant women are merely another passerby in subway and buses. Not because it is rare when people willingly give up their seats for pregnant women, but the priority seats are de-facto exclusively for the elderly. It is revealed from the article that pregnant women avoid taking public transit in fear that they might be humiliated by the senior citizens if they sit at priority seats. According to an anonymous internet post that has once stoked fury from younger population, when a woman is sitting in priority seat and it is evident that she is pregnant, the older people do not verbally criticize her. They rather try to shoo her away from their privileged seats by deliberately trampling on her shoes or pinching her arm, because they know that it is a shame for them to cast slurs at pregnant women. It is an abominable behavior, as some of the so-called elderly have shown. There are many other elders whom we should respect, but the misdemeanor of some of them have roused severe social problem.

The solution the government came up with is a knee-jerk solution for rousing concerns. Recently the government set up priority seats for pregnant women, colored pink. It is written in bold letters that the seats are for women bearing a child, most of the time people who are clearly not pregnant, such as men or older women past menopause, are occupying these seats. The fact that it is hard to spot a pregnant woman in transit because they are clearly avoiding the hassle of commuting with other nonchalant passersby would have contributed to the uselessness of the solution. However, being a cultural dilemma masquerading as a social one, it is hard to remedy the phenomena by a social measure. A more fundamental solution to shift the general perception on pregnancy is needed.

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