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Family Customs in Korea

The vast changes that have swept Asia and the rest of the world in the latter half of the 20th century have naturally been felt in the day-to-day lifestyle of every Korean.  Traditional customs and more have undergone a great deal of change due to the rapid modernization of society.  Despite these changes, however, there are those who maintain that Korea, for all its high-rise buildings, is still one of the most Confucian nations in the world.  The traditional ways of the past and the long-cherished customs continue to influence Koreans' newly acquired modern ways.

In the past, several generations often lived together, and many children were desired for the future stability and security of the family.  It was not unusual for the number of people sharing one house to total a dozen people or more.  In recent years, however, the move to urban areas and popularity of new apartment-type housing has meant that newly married couples tend to live on their own instead of sharing quarters with other family members.  This trend has given rise to an increasing number of nuclear families in Korea.

Traditionally, the eldest male of a family was regarded as the source of supreme authority.  All family members were expected to do what was ordered or desired by him.  Strict instruction were to be obeyed without protest.  It would have been unthinkable for children or grandchildren to place themselves in opposition to the wishes of their elders.  Obedience to one's superiors was deemed natural; in addition, filial piety in particular was viewed as the most revered of all Confucian virtues.  On the other hand, it was understood that the patriarch of the family would be fair in all matters relating to the discipline of family members.


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