Priority seats for pregnant women: Complaint-rich territory on subway.
Complaints about other passengers using priority seats for pregnant women soared to nearly 6,000 in November, Seoul Metro said. This compares with 183 reports, on average, a month from Jan. to Oct.
The steep rise came after feminist online community, Womad, started a campaign to draw attention to the problems pregnant women have getting a seat.
The site, which has more than 200,000 members, uploaded a post, "Let's actively complain," along with Seoul Metro's call-center number.
"I received several notifications per minute, which made it difficult to focus on driving," a metro driver said.
There are two seats allocated for pregnant women in each carriage. Previously, women had to use priority seats for the disabled, children and the elderly.
The change came in 2013 after women in the early stages of pregnancy complained of the difficulties they had getting a general priority seat. The government also made the move to encourage women to have more babies to increase the country's birth rate.
But pregnant women are still finding it hard to get a seat.
Complaints about other people using the seats have been rising every year. There were 101 reports in 2014, 830 in 2015, 1,394 in 2016 and 1,829 this year from Jan. to Oct, with 5,767 complaints in November.
Regular announcements are made to encourage passengers to leave the seats free for pregnant women. But only six out of 10 pregnant women said passengers gave up their seat for them, according to a survey of 3,212 pregnant women by the Korea Population, Health and Welfare Association from Aug. 22 to Sept. 8.
As Seoul Metro increased the announcements, passengers complained.
"Why do we have to keep the seat unoccupied? We can give up the seat when a pregnant woman gets on the subway," a passenger said.
Another passenger said, "Stop with the announcements," and requested the removal of the seats for pregnant women.
A Seoul Metro official said that there was an increase in requests to remove the slogan used on the seats. Passengers argued that it suggests the baby is more important than the pregnant woman. The slogan says: "The seat for tomorrow's main character."
"Safe service is our priority, so responding to the complaints is difficult," the official said. "Rather than restrictions or a crackdown, we just hope for a public consensus."