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Why the initiative of free childcare failed to be an effective policy implementation of universal childcare in South KoreaFree childcare (‘moo-sang-bo-yuk’ in Korean) for all children aged 0-5 was implemented for the first time in South Korea in 2012, initially being aimed at establishing universal childcare in order to alleviate parents’ childcare burden. Despite the headlines grabbing policy reform, it still remains questionable whether the policy implementation has had any positive impact on parents’ childcare burden, in terms of the state taking on more responsibility in this regard. The paper is aimed at exploring how the meaning of universal childcare was communicated during the policy initiation process. In order to do so, interpretative policy analysis was utilised as a methodological approach, whilst relevant policy documents and in-depth interviews were used for data collection. Why the policy implementation could not succeed in bringing universal childcare to the fore is critically examined. I argue that these failings occurred because the policy implementation was placed on the agenda with a lack of commitment to increasing the number of public childcare centres, as well as disengagement from understanding the gender relations necessary for delivering universal childcare effectively.