A professor of sociology in a Catholic University discusses the modern Korean family in a recent article titled: "Communication is Necessary in the Korean Family."
Women's role in society, she said, has changed greatly in modern times. In the past, family relationships, including the ancestors, was strong. Family was the extended family and not the nuclear family most of us are familiar with today. Traditional families were to raise a son to be a success in life. A woman's future was not to marry and raise a family with her husband but to join the husband's family. As a young daughter-in-law she was to be the worker of the family and would continue to do so until she in turn would have another woman, married to her son, enter the family circle. This would give her power she did not have before.
In modern society, women are educated for their future role more by what they learned in school, from specialists and from books, than by receiving help from the family members. The traditional extended family has changed into the nuclear family, popular in the West. The influence of the extended family system, the professor believes, has been weakened, and the wife's family has become more important than it was in the past. She reveals, after showing us many of the problems that have to be faced as a result of the new understanding of family life, how communication can be improved by returning to more traditional ways.
There is a lack of communication in the nuclear family that was not the case with the extended family, she said. The effort of the nuclear family was to better itself and to work to develop as a family. And they became very good at this. They have contributed many talented people to help develop Korean society. However, the emotional life of the family suffered. Each member was a tool in the developing of the family but in the process, emotional harm could be inflicted on some of the individual members, and of course it did not always lead to the happiness of the family, either.
The professor feels that the acceptance of the nuclear family model left much to be desired. She feels that it inflicted much pain, but that the interchange among members of the extended family and neighbors enabled the family members to rid themselves of pent-up frustrations. Divorce and violence in families, she wonders,if it is not a breakdown of the opportunity to express one's emotions.
Women, traditionally, have been the primary impetus in forming stable families, she said. She wants women to continue this practice by expressing what they feel and what they like to the members of their family. She believes that we all can join together to help in restoring the positive aspects of the traditional family system as the common stabilizing element in our society.