"Recent Changes in Korean Families: Demographic, Social and Cultural Perspective"

Eun, Ki-Soo (2006) "Recent Changes in Korean Families: Demographic, Social and Cultural Perspective". In: Family Scholars Colloquium, 7-8 August 2006, Impian KLCC Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.

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This paper deals with recent changes in Korean families from diverse perspectives. Demographic conditions affecting family structure and family life in contemporary Korean society can be characterized as lowest-low fertility and speeding aging. Fertility in Korea drastically dropped to 1.08 of total fertility rate in 2005, one of the lowest records in the world. On the other hand, as a result of lowering fertility in part, aging has been proceeding too rapidly to adapt to new social environment. If aging continues with the current speed, it is easily predicted that Korean people will face financially unprecedented burden to support elderly within a short time. Lowest-low fertility and rapid aging have been clearly observed since the 1997 economic crisis in Korean society. In my view, Korean society has become an absolutely different society from that before the economic crisis. Not only social structure but also individual attitudes and behaviors, and familial life had to be under restructuration right after the economic crisis. Thus, the economic crisis has to be regarded as a critical factor in recent family changes in Korea. After the economic crisis, marriageable men suddenly began to disappear in the eyes of women because both decent and humble jobs which new graduates from schools usually occupied in the transition to work from school disappeared and the number of unemployed men skyrocketed. On the other hand, educational attainment for female has been expanded and comparable works for women have been increased. Thus, women had to have difficulties in finding marriageable men after the economic crisis. This has led to increasing age at first birth for both men and women, in other word delay marriage and family formation. Korean family has shown several new features in the late 1990s and early 2000s. One is the decreasing family formation. This is like the back of coin, increasing age at first marriage. Another is increasing remarriage in Korea. Remarriage, in particular women's remarriage was negatively stigmatized according to a Confucian legacy to prohibit women's remarriage in traditional times. This custom has been remained for a long time. However, increasing divorce not only at younger ages but at middle and older ages has widened the possibility of remarriage for both men and women. Tolerance toward remarriage at the societal level has also greatly increased according to various family surveys. Even first-time marriage by men has been made with divorced or bereaved women, which could not be imagined in Korean society even one decades ago. Another feature in contemporary marriage in Korea is a soaring international or interracial marriage, especially for Korean men. Single men in rural area have had so many difficulties in finding marriage partner because Korean women would not like to marry farmers or men residing in rural area. Under the shortage of marriageable women, rural men began to seek foreign bride, firstly from China and then Vietnam these day. Thus, more than one to ten marriages are now an interracial marriage in Korea. Changing demographic and familial conditions results in small size of family in Korea. The average number of household members is now less than three. Even the proportion of two-generation families has been steadily decreasing besides three- or four-generation household. On the other hand, one-person household is remarkably increasing in both urban and rural areas because of increasing divorce, deepening aging and increasing number of the female bereaved, and wide pursuit of independent life by younger generation. Also, with this trend, the proportion of female head of household is steadily increasing. however, female household heads are more suffering from poverty than male counterparts because of sex-discriminatory labor market, lack of women-friendly welfare policy and dual burden by the traditional patriarchal family system.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Keywords: family structures, family life, lowest-low fertility, speeding aging, Korea, LPPKN
Subjects: 300 Social sciences > 302 Social interaction
Division/Agency/State: LPPKN - National Population and Family Development Board, Malaysia > Division of Family Development
Deposited By: Mr Mustapha Muhamad
Deposited On: 21 Aug 2013 04:20
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2014 06:07
URI: http://familyrepository.lppkn.gov.my/id/eprint/341

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