We ask about the development of childcare policies in Korea and what these mean for our understanding of the gender assumptions of Korean governments. Women's labour market participation has been increasing rapidly, with married women now much more likely to be in the labour market. The provision and regulation around support for women's employment, and especially for mothers' employment, is a key issue and problem for Korean women and for governments. A number of policies give the impression that the Korean government is moving rapidly towards a policy for reconciling work and family based on a dual-earner model of the family. But we argue that a close inspection of these policies suggests that the state is still plying a residual role, legislation is not effectively implemented, and government is giving way to the private sector and to the family in responsibility for childcare. Mothers' accounts of their lives centre on a childcare war played out beneath the apparently harmonious Confucian surface, with resisting husbands supported by powerful mothers-in-law, and daily struggles over the management of services. The Korean government and its policy-makers, far from moving rapidly towards a dual-earner model of the family, are still rooted in Confucian ideals.