This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

Last updated at 16:02 GMT, Wednesday, 20 January 2010

South Korean family planning


20 January 2010

South Korean government workers are being told to 'go home and multiply'. Tonight the Ministry of Health, concerned about the country's falling birth rate, will force staff to leave the office early and return to their loved ones.

John Sudworth

Korean schoolchildren

South Korea has one of the lowest birth rates in the world. Photo byYeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images


Click to hear the report:


Forget that still unwritten report or the backlog of paperwork building up on the desk, on this cold and rainy mid-week night there can be no excuses to stay late in the office. South Korea's Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs will be turning off all the lights at 7pm in a bid to force staff to go home to their families and, well, make bigger ones. It will repeat the experiment once a month.

The country now has one of the world's lowest birth rates, lower even than neighbouring Japan, and boosting the number of newborn children is a priority for this government, staring into the abyss of a rapidly ageing society, falling levels of manpower and spiralling health care costs.

The Ministry of Health, now sometimes jokingly referred to as the 'Ministry of Matchmaking', is in charge of spearheading that drive and it clearly believes its staff should lead by example. Generous gift vouchers are on offer for officials who have more than one child and the department organises social gatherings in the hope of fostering love amongst its bureaucrats. But critics say what is really needed is wide-scale reform to tackle the burdensome cost of childcare and education that puts many young people off from starting a family.

John Sudworth, BBC News, Seoul


Click to hear the vocabulary


the backlog of paperwork building up

the large and increasing amount of office documents (letters, reports etc) that you should have dealt with before but which you still need to deal with

birth rates

the number of babies born in a particular place during a certain period



staring into the abyss

looking to a future situation which will be difficult

rapidly ageing society

when the population of a country is getting older with not enough younger people to take their place

falling levels of manpower

when there are not enough young and fit people to do all the jobs needed to maintain the country's economy


steadily increasing

spearheading that drive

taking charge of the plan

fostering love amongst its bureaucrats

encouraging office workers to start having relationships with each other


difficult and requiring a lot of responsibility, time and money

  1. Home
  2. Grammar, Vocabulary & Pronunciation
  3. Words in the News
  4. South Korean family planning