Korean men enjoyed the world first paternity leave 500 years ago!

by Knowing Korea

[[Image by Republic of Korea (, CC BY-SA 2.0 license]]


Paternity leave is a recent development in Western countries, believed to be first introduced by Scandinavian welfare states in the 1970s. But behold! Koreans fathers were provided leave as far back as 500 years ago thanks to King Sejong!


According to Veritable Records of the Joseon Dynasty, in 1426, the 8th year of his reign, Sejong instructed his Ministry of Justice to introduce 100 days of maternity leave following the birth of a child, later adding another 30 days before the birth, to provide new mothers a total of 130 days rest.


“It was once the case that a public servant who has given birth would be given only 7 days rest before returning to work, and would be full of worry about the welfare of the child they left behind, so I gave them 100 days instead. However, there are occasions when a woman experiencing labour pains at work is forced to give birth before she can reach her home, so how about providing a month’s rest beforehand?”


Still not satisfied, Sejong decreed later in 1434 that men should also receive 30 days leave from work to help their wives care for their new child.