The marital situation in the Korea of today is not like it was just a few decades ago. It has changed quickly. A writer for the Korean Times, in a recent column ponders the reasons for the sadness often felt by mothers of daughters in their 30s and 40s who are still unmarried. She is herself the mother of an unmarried daughter, and often thinks of the loneliness her unmarried daughters must feel.
The columnist reminisces on how faithful her daughter has been in her faith life. The daughter even wrote a letter to the Pope welcoming him to Korea; the Apostolic Delegate responded and his letter is now framed and on her living room wall as a treasured souvenir. However, her sadness is always there; the daughter is 40 and remains unmarried. If she were married, the mother believes, her daughter would be happier and she would worry less about her.
The reasons girls are avoiding marriage are many and reflect the currently accepted norms of our society. Women are better educated and have easier access into the business world. Some of the men are not as capable or as successful as the women, making it difficult for women to find suitable partners. You hear that women have had to lower their expectations, which for many has not been easy. They also like the freedom they now have and dislike the paternalism they find in society, a norm which influenced the thinking of many men in their early years. The feminist reaction that occurred in some other countries seems not to have influenced most of the women here.
However, the refrain that is heard repeatedly is that money is needed if one wants to marry well. Society does not make it easy to begin married life on a shoe string, which was often the case in the past. Willingness to sacrifice, to make do with less, is not what one sees in our society, and what is not readily seen, no matter how beneficial, will have little influence on our youth.
The mother goes on to describe buying a finger rosary for her daughter. The daughter was never interested with body accessories--necklaces or ear rings-- so she broached the subject very delicately and the offer was accepted graciously. The mother took the size of the ring finger and bought a gold finger rosary, and then they both went to a priest to have it blessed. The mother was pleased with the gift and the results, as was the daughter, who mentioned the times people, surprised to see she was a Catholic, had asked what her baptismal name was. The daughter said she felt closer to her mother and to Jesus and Mary thanks to the ring.
The finger rosary does serve many purposes. Those who do not have a car and take the ferry to the mission station, seeing a finger rosary on the fingers of the drivers makes it easy for those without cars to ask for a ride. It does save some embarrassing moments, for requests are cheerfully accepted. This indicates the importance that Catholicism would have for many of our Koreans and who are willing and happy to make that commitment known to others.
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