ESL South Korea

Korean Family System

A typical Korean family usually includes extended family members such as grandmothers and grandfathers.  While the average Western family averages four members, when asking a Korean about the size of his family you might get a big number.  This is not because he has a lot of children or siblings (the contrary is usually true), but because he includes extended family members (grandparents, aunts and uncles) into the number.

Although not as common today as a few years back, a Korean family might consist of two or three generations living under the same roof, as one big family.  Taking care of one’s elders, something deeply rooted in Confucian tradition, is of course seen as a high priority though in recent years has also suffered decline.

Children usually live with their parents until they are married, even if they are full grown adults.  Woman who move out of their family’s houses before they are married, are sometimes frowned upon, since it is often seen as an excuse for promiscuous behaviour, especially in more conservative areas.  Once a man or woman wishes to be married, arrangements are usually made by the parents (though the marriage partner is not arranged!).

The oldest son of the family is called the Changnam and has the primary responsibilty of taking care of his parents when they reach old age.  Daugthers who marry effectively leave their families behind and become a part of their new husband’s family.  The high regard that mothers have for their son’s (especially eldest son’s) usually lead to complicated and strained relationships between mothers and their daughter-in-law’s.  Daughter-in-law’s have various responsibilities and duties that might be construed as burdensome by Western standards.

Currently, Korea is one of the few countries in the world with a declining population growth.  The Korean government is trying to encourage people to have larger families, but parents are usually unwilling to have more than one or two children due to the high costs of education of children in Korea.  It’s a fact that Koreans spent millions upon millions of Won (or hundreds of thousands of dollars) upon the elite education of one child.  Having more than one child thus proves to be a very expensive addition indeed.

In a rather desperate attempt to give children an educational advantage, and grant them explore to a globalized worldview (in contrast with Korea’s strictly homogenous culture and community), children are often sent to boarding schools abroad (usually in North America) and family members strangely separated for many years.