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

Eugene Y. Park eugene.y.park at uci.edu
Wed Jun 11 23:35:53 EDT 2008

Dear all,

I fully agree with Clark's observations. I'd even go as far as suggesting
that for quite some time, whether to live with the man's parents (or even
near by them) has been a contentious issue for marriage couples. Of course
the Koreans are aware of the tradition of parents-eldest son cohabitation,
but now a days one would be hard pressed to find a woman duly accepting
and abiding by the notion. She may as well--and rightfully so--ask: Why
should it be my husband's parents who should be taken care of while my own
parents too need help?

On the last chuseok in Korea when I was trying to avoid the worst day of
expressway traffic, a cousin of mine cynically noted: These days, it's all
spread out; people make one-day trips, since the daughters in-law don't
like to stay long at the parents-in-laws'.


On Thu, 6 12, 2008 06:23, Clark W Sorensen wrote:
> 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.
> Clark
> 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> >> >> >> >>
>> > >
>> _________________________________________________________________
>> Search that pays you back! Introducing Live Search cashback.
>> http://search.live.com/cashback/?&pkw=form=MIJAAF/publ=HMTGL/crea=srchpaysyouback

Eugene Y. Park
Associate Professor
Department of History
Krieger Hall 200
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697
Tel. (949) 824-5275
Fax. (949) 824-2865

More information about the Koreanstudies mailing list