Call to lower age limit for boys in public baths

April 15, 2014
The current law bans boys over the age of five from entering areas used by the opposite sex in public bathhouses.  It was reduced from seven in 2003.

The current law bans boys over the age of five from entering areas used by the opposite sex in public bathhouses. It was reduced from seven in 2003.

By Kim Se-jeong

The Ministry of Health and Welfare said Tuesday it is considering lowering the age that boys can accompany their mothers to gender segregated areas in public bath houses.

The current law bans boys over the age of five from entering areas used by the opposite sex in public bathhouses.  It was reduced from seven in 2003.

“It’s time to review the age limit,” said Hwang, a ministry official. The official only disclosed his last name for this article.

The ministry’s reconsideration of the age limit follows an official request from the association of public bathhouse owners.

In a letter sent to the ministry in late February, the association called for the government to reduce the age limit.

“The number of complaints from individual business owners is mounting,” said an official from the association during a telephone interview with The Korea Times, Tuesday.

Last year, an unidentified woman filed a complaint against the age limit with the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission of Korea, which was relayed to the ministry.

However, as Hwang said, finding an ultimate solution is not easy.

“We understand some women may feel insulted. But, the new regulation could single out boys who have no male family members to go to bath centers with,” said Hwang.

The official said the argument among women that a five-year-old boy in a public bath facility is an object of insult and shame is “rather subjective.”

The ministry said it will take time to reach any decision in the near future.

The public bath centers are strictly separated between men and women here. Ones that are designed for family are out there, but very few. And moms often go to public bathhouses with their male children.

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