The city government in the South Korean capital, Seoul, is facing backlash after advising pregnant women to cook their husbands several meals and ensure they have a supply of clean underwear before going to hospital to give birth.

This would avoid causing family "inconvenience", the government of the South Korean capital posted on a website for expectant mothers.

The guidelines - originally posted in 2019 - were removed last week from the website after they came to public notice and triggered a groundswell of criticism.

As of this afternoon, more than 20,000 people had signed a petition posted on the presidential website calling for the officials responsible for the content to be punished.

During the early stages of pregnancy, women were advised to hang up a small-sized outfit that they want to wear after giving birth to "motivate" them not to overeat or skip exercises.

"By not putting off household chores like cleaning and doing the dishes, it will help with maintaining your weight even without doing extra exercise," the Pregnancy and Childbirth Information Centre website said. 

As their due date approaches, an expectant mother should prepare a few meals in advance for her husband who will be "unfamiliar with cooking", and ensure he has clean underwear, socks, shirts and handkerchieves to last him until his wife returns from hospital.

"Avoid causing inconvenience to your family by checking if there are enough toilet paper, toothpaste, toothbrush, soap and detergent," the website stated.

South Korea is facing a demographic crisis as its birth rate plunges with women facing a double burden of work and childcare. 

"The objective of the website seems to be to promote singlehood and not motherhood," the petition reads, adding: "Does Seoul city think of women as public goods that give birth?" 

In a statement to AFP, the Seoul city government acknowledged that it had failed to "thoroughly review" the contents before posting them on its website.

"We will establish a foundation for regular inspection of the overall operation to prevent this from ever happening again."