The traditional Korean Society retains a strong Confucian tradition, which is clearly manifested in the strong devotion to the family. This tradition combined with the passionate nature of Koreans can perhaps explain strong loyalties felt between relatives, co-workers, classmates, and friends. This is all true of Korean society today. Even though a number of things have changed, there is still a strong emphasis on the traditional family (People, 1).
One of the big differences in the traditional Korean family structure and the current family structure is arranged marriages. Arranged marriages reflected the traditional belief that marriage is the union of two families, not simply two people. Under the old family system parents arranged marriages without the consent of their children, either male or female. In the current Korean family this is still true but to a different extent. Since under the old family system, daughters left their parents to live with their husband”s families, marriage was often traumatic for them. New wives of course tried to please their husband, but more importantly, they had to please their mother in laws. The mother in law directed then wife in her housework and had the power to send the bride back home in disgrace if the bride seriously displeased her. Sometimes this adjustment was hard for the bride (Sorensen, 1).
Arranged marriages continue to become popular because young men and women in Korea find casual socializing awkward and often feel like the lack experience to choose their own partners. Although casual dating is now more common, most interactions between young men and women occur in groups. Arranged marriages also seem safe because to go between clearly appraises the social background of the bride and groom. After their engagement a couple will date so they know each other well by the time they marry. The pattern is so common that Koreans assume that a young couple who dates regularly will be married (Sorensen, 3).
Another aspect of Korean family structure that has changed is the role of men. Sons were more valuable than daughters. Sons had to say at their parents” home even after marriage. This law was revised. Since people often move to find work, eldest sons often cannot live with their parents. The New Civil code of 1958 legalized change favoring the new conditions. Essentially, the new code weakened the power of the head of the household, and strengthened the husband-wife relationship (Male children, 1).
Sons were also important because under Korea”s Confucian tradition the family name and family tradition was passed down through male heirs. When a couple could not produce a male heir, they would try to have a son with another woman in order to guarantee that the family name was carried on to the next generation. Parents also depended on their sons when they retired. Today the house head cannot determine where family members live. An eldest son can now leave home against his father”s will. Husbands and wives share power to determine the education punishment of the children. Children can decide on their own marriages, and permission is not required if they are of age. Younger sons leave their parent to form their own families when they marry, and the head of the household no longer has the legal right to manage all family property. Since the New civil code, all children have equal claim in their parents property (Sorensen, 2).
A third aspect of change in the Korean family structure is the division of labor of males and females. In the tradition family, men labored outside, taking care of major field crops, while women worked inside doing housework, spinning, weaving, cooking, and raising the children. To a certain extent this tradition lives on today, even as more and more women take jobs in the modern work place. Husbands usually think it is embarrassing to help with the housework, although some of the younger ones help (Male children, 2).
The raising of Korean children is done pretty much the same way in the traditional family structure as in the current family structure. Young children were and are indulged. Toilet training was relaxed and children were not disciplined before they were old enough to reason. By the time a child reached six or seven, training began in earnest. Parents began the strict separation of girls and boys, in accordance with Confucian ethics, and they trained children to use the respectful voice of those older (Differences, 2).
By the time he reached seven a boy knew that he must use the respectful mode of speech to his older brother, and he knew that failure to do so would result in swift and certain punishment. All of these things are still done today. The only difference is the position of girls in these families. Traditionally, a girl by seven usually knows her position in the family was inferior to her brother”s because when she was married, she left the family. Now, both of them have the option of leaving or staying (Differences, 2).
Finally the last aspect of the Korean family culture that has not changed is the importance of education for Korean children. A common belief in Korean is children are reflection of their parents. Parents are expected to all out support their children”s education, often sacrificing their own comfort. More money is spent on private tutoring and exam schools than on public education. Koreans put great stock in a college education. It is the most important factor in deciding one”s career. Another reason is Korean parents” devotion to their children. They will do anything to ensure their children”s success and happiness. Many parents also hope that their children will achieve the success that they dreamed of but never achieved (Sorensen, 1).
In spite of recent changes, fundamental characteristics of the traditional Korean family remain. Each person in the family still has a clearly defined role, each dependant on others within the family unit. Korean”s adapt their traditional ideas within the family to new conditions. The family still retains a male house head. Inheritance of family leadership still continues through the father”s line, and sons still inherit more wealth than daughters do. Children, especially eldest sons, are still held responsible for the care of their aged parents. The structure of the Korean family remains with only a few changes. The core Confucian values, which shaped the family, are still a great force in Korean Life.
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