[KS] Korean Culture for eldest son to care for parents

Clark W Sorensen sangok at u.washington.edu
Wed Jun 11 17:23:59 EDT 2008

Dear Lawrence,

I didn't mean to imply that Korean culture has changed as fast as Korean law, but still there have been fairly drastic changes. With the equalization of inheritance between sons and between sons and daughters, however, the emphasis on the eldest son is much less than it used to be. Coresidence of parents with married children is the exception rather than the rule in urban areas, and when such coresidence takes place, although it is most often with the eldest son, it is sometimes with more affluent younger sons, or even daughters. At contemporary ancestor worship rituals, while the eldest son may give the first offering of liquor, the subsequent offerings are often not now limited to two, but extended to as many descendents as wish to make offerings including daughters in some families. Roger Janelli and I have both contributed articles to Charlotte Ikels edited volume "Filial Piety: Practice 
and Discourse in Contemporary East Asia" (Stanford Press) that discuss both change and continuity in this value in present-day Korea. Just because people still read the same old texts doesn't mean they understand the significance of these text in the same way their parents and grandparents did.


On Tue, 10 Jun 2008, lawrence driscoll wrote:

> Dear List:
> Although Clark Sorenson's reply to InJung Cho's query sounded very adept, and may be all that the lawyer needed, I must say that I am surprised that the subject did not generate more discussion.
> In my own mind the intricate father-son relationship had always been fundamental to the Korean family structure, and to Korean culture in general.
> I must admit that my first reaction to such a query, made by a person with a name that is clearly Korean, was amazement.  But then I realized that if I were to be approached to answer a question about my own Irish heritage, I too would be at a loss. Our family roots are now some 5 generations removed from Ireland. And I am guessing that Dr. Cho's may be similarly distant from Korea.
> But regardless of Clark's citing of 1988 as the official end to such filial obligations, I can't but help believe that for many, these duties of the eldest son continue to be deeply ingrained in the national psyche. Granted that while the three year mourning period at the gravesite of one's father, has long been relegated to antiquity, other manifestations of the Master's (Confucius) teachings are no doubt still in tact. Please correct me if I am wrong, and if the demise of this tradition has indeed been happening at a far faster pace.
> Thank you.
> Lawrence Driscoll    N.J., U.S.A.
> > Date: Fri, 6 Jun 2008 13:23:55 -0700> From: sangok at u.washington.edu> To: koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws> Subject: Re: [KS] Korean Culture for eldest son to care for parents> > Dear Dr. Cho,> > It was indeed true until 1988 that eldest sons in South Korea succeeded to the house headship, received extra property in inheritance, and were expected to take care of their parents in old age. Korea family law has been revised several times since then, however, and the Constitutional Court has made a number of critical decisions, so the issue is no longer cut and dried. Eldest sons can now partition from their birth house if they wish. Other children have a residual obligation to their parents as well, so the legal status of the eldest son at the time of his death would depend upon whether he was still registered on his parents family register, whether he had children of his own, and whether he had any siblings. Because of the complicated nature of all of these considerations I would think hiring a Korean lawyer would be well worth the cost.> > Clark W. Sorensen> University of Washington> > > On Fri, 6 Jun 2008, Injung Cho wrote:> > > Dear all,> >> > I was contacted by a lawyer about the Korean customs of looking after> > their old parents. I am afraid that I don't know much about this issue.> > So I am turning to this discussion forum for help. Any help will be> > greatly appreciated. I've attached her email below.> >> > Regards,> > InJung Cho> >> > =========================> >> > Further to our telephone conversation just now, I confirm that I act for> > a Korean family – husband and wife who are farmers; their younger son> > (completing military service) and daughter.> >> > Last year their eldest son who had graduated with a degree in> > Hospitality Management was killed in the Kerang Rail accident.> >> > The family were flown over for the Memorial Service held last year.> > The eldest son was in Australia doing work experience in hotels with the> > hope of obtaining a better position in Korea with his international work> > experience. The family were assisting him financially during his> > studies and whilst he was here.> >> > They have advised that as is traditional in Korean society the eldest> > son would care for them in their retirement.> >> > This matter needs to be supported by independent proof of this cultural> > norm and I am hoping that there are some studies or statistics or other> > information which can be put before the court to establish the great> > financial loss to the parents.> >> > Any assistance will be greatly appreciated.> >> > Thank you> > Lesley Simons> >> > Lesley Simons & Associates> > Barristers & Solicitors & Migration Agents> > MARN: 0210699> > Tel: (613) 9509 2572> > lesleysimons at bigpond.com> > Fax: (613) 9509 2142> >> >> >> >> > >
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