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Military steps up child care measures for female soldiers


By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) --The South Korean military will expand child care measures for female soldiers to make the armed forces more family friendly and help them stay in work after giving birth, the defense ministry said Wednesday.

The defense ministry will assign obstetricians for front-line troops and allow pregnant soldiers in isolated regions two prenatal leaves per month after they are 29 weeks, or seven months, into pregnancy.

The latest move comes after a female Army soldier died of cerebral hemorrhage during her pregnancy in February 2013 while working at a front-line unit.

According to an investigation by the state rights watchdog, the 28-year-old officer had to travel over three hours to receive treatment at a local maternity clinic and worked excessive hours prior to her death, sparking criticism over poor working conditions for female soldiers.

For those who take parental leave, the ministry will give child-raising allowance for a maximum of three years starting in 2014. Currently, the allowance, which is about 40 percent of their salary, is provided up to one year.

The military will also increase child care facilities in units with over 100 official residences and establish support centers in the front-line areas with little access to private institutions.

"Although more women are serving in the military, some of their careers have been interrupted due to pressure from pregnancy, childbirth and child care," a ministry official said. "The ministry will make efforts to make a family-friendly environment through improved child care measures."

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