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Lawmaker pushes for bill requiring women to join civil defense training

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Rep. Kim Gi-hyun, one of the leading contenders in the ruling People Power Party's leadership race, speaks in the National Assembly, Seoul, on Jan. 19. Korea Times photo by Ko Young-kwon
Rep. Kim Gi-hyun, one of the leading contenders in the ruling People Power Party's leadership race, speaks in the National Assembly, Seoul, on Jan. 19. Korea Times photo by Ko Young-kwon

By Lee Yeon-woo

Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, one of the leading contenders in the ruling People Power Party's (PPP) leadership race, plans to submit a bill on Wednesday that requires women to participate in civil defense training.

"Men and women are equally responsible for protecting themselves and families during war or an equivalent state of emergency, or terrorism," Kim said while explaining his new bill.

Under the Civil Defense Framework Act, men aged from 20 to 40 should receive a maximum of 50 hours of civil defense training annually. The training not only includes emergency measures such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, but also survival tactics including chemical, biological and radiological attacks and other accidents.

Kim proposed to include women aged from between 20 to 40 in the defense training, except for those who are pregnant or have recently miscarried. Kim plans to gradually widen the training to obligatory military instructions in the near future.

Since Kim unveiled the plan on Sunday, he has been criticized for pushing a bill as a way to attract votes from men in their 20s and 30s, who are sensitive about gender-related issues.

Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun, one of the other contenders in the PPP leadership race, said he cannot help but think the policy is not about "security" but "gender," and added that separating men and women "isn't good."

Rep. Kwon In-sook from the Democratic Party (DPK), who is also the chairperson of the National Assembly's Gender Equality and Family Committee, said the bill is "populist" as it targets certain generations and gender while the government is "egging on war." She quoted President Yoon Suk-yeol's recent remarks about likening Iran to North Korea as the country's biggest threat during his visit to UAE.

"This is the national defense version of [gender-related] policies such as the gender ministry's abolishment, which the PPP comes up with to seek a rebound whenever they drop in the popularity polls," Kwon said.

In this photo taken in 2008, men are practicing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a dummy during civil defense training held in Seocho District, southern Seoul. Korea Times file
In this photo taken in 2008, men are practicing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a dummy during civil defense training held in Seocho District, southern Seoul. Korea Times file

Kim responded to the criticisms by saying that women's participation in civil defense training is essential for survival, and his proposal has nothing to do with garnering votes from young men.

"Current civil defense training is only for men aged from 20 to 40. In other words, women will be completely in a defenseless state in times of war without any survival knowledge," Kim said on Tuesday.

"Some say I came up with the policy to get votes from men in their 20s. It's not true. I proposed a subject that has remained taboo in political circles for so long because they cared about votes. Even if I get a 1-percent approval rating, I will push on with what I have to do," Kim said.

In the meantime, some questioned whether the training is feasible, or if carried out, effective.

Civil defense training has been subject to a lack of budget and manpower for a long time. To include women in the training, secure facilities, provide equipment, and execute training programs would require extensive expansion. But there has been no public hearing, or open forum to discuss such details.

"Rather than simply urging women to join the training as it is a good thing, it would have been better if he had also discussed whether the current training is effective, plans to improve the training in the modern world, and how women can do meaningful work to protect the community," Kim Byung-min, a member of the PPP's emergency committee, said to the local media YTN.


Lee Yeon-woo yanu@koreatimes.co.kr


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