Following a scandal last year where impoverished girls in South Korea were found to be using the insoles of shoes in place of sanitary napkins, the government of Seoul is launching a pilot program to provide free menstrual products at facilities around the capital.
According to the Korea Herald newspaper today (Oct. 11), the metropolitan government will offer sanitary pads at 10 venues in Seoul, including the Seoul Museum of Art, Seoul Metropolitan Library, and Seoul Museum of History.
The scandal around Korea’s so-called “insole girls” came to light last year after Yuhan-Kimberly, the dominant producer of feminine-hygiene products, raised the prices of sanitary pads, which many low-income families could not afford. Prices had already been among the highest in Asia. The backlash over “period poverty” also opened up a broader discussion in Korea about menstruation, where it had previously been considered shameful and taboo.
At the same time, South Korean women were fighting for the right to import silicon menstruation cups. The government finally relaxed its rules to allow the sale of menstrual cups at the end of 2017.
The move by Seoul’s government comes after Scotland became the first nation in the world to guarantee free sanitary products to all students at schools, colleges, and universities in August. Other countries, such as Australia and India, recently abolished taxes on sanitary products. This year, New York governor Andrew Cuomo made it mandatory for schools throughout the state to provide free menstrual products to girls from grade 6 to 12.