There are many different parenting styles all around the world. However, one nation's particular parenting culture and style has continued to intrigue and even confuse people in the U.S. Parenting in Korea is unique, and some of it is even uncommon when comparing it to how people in the States raise their children. From letting your one-year-old choose his or her destiny to eating spicy kimchi to cure everything and anything, there are a few things that will continue to confuse us about parenting in Korea.
There are quite a few cultural differences, and while some of them may sound extreme, the children are often downright smart and artistic. Still, some may be confused about some things, like what seaweed soup is and why people love eating it, for example.
According to a blog titled A Cup of Jo, Lexi Mainland moved her family to South Korea where she gave birth to her daughter Isabel. In the birthing center, after delivery, they do not believe in air conditioning or fans in a mother's hospital room. Mainland recalled, "From what I understand, this custom is based on a belief that exposing your recovering body to cold can result in 'saan-hoo-poong,' or unexplained body aches and joint pain."
When you enter a home, you must remove your shoes and if you do not, it is a sign of disrespect. They typically use floors for sitting and even sleeping, so having an unclean floor is unacceptable. Some new apartments even come with built-in shoe cabinets and a centralized vacuum system that caters to having clean floors.
In America, there aren't such things as playrooms at grocery stores or play areas in malls where babysitters look after your children while you shop with your girlfriends. If you are taking your child with you to a mall, shopping center or to get groceries, you always keep an eye on them. Not in Korea!
One major environmental issue faced is combating fine dust in the air. According to VOA News, there has been a warning of high levels of micro-dust in the air, which is thick and has blanketed most of the country. Blogger Lexi Mainland stated that it's been a challenge to have her toddler’s mask on, so the only choice she has is to keep her daughter inside and keep the air purifier on.
An article titled, 16 Surprising Things About Parenting in Korea states that a troubling aspect of parenting in Korea is the stigma "that comes with being a single mom here because the two-parent, [the] nuclear family tradition is so dominant. It's so intense that single mothers can feel forced to place their kids up for adoption."
Kimchi is symbolic in the culture of Korea; so much so that they believe it is the cure for everything! If you aren't familiar with kimchi, it is a famous traditional dish of salted and fermented vegetables, such as cabbage and radish, made with a varying selection of seasonings. The people also believe that the spicier the kimchi, the better.
According to A Cup of Jo blog, maternity clothing is often "sacklike dresses" or "huge tent-like tops, nothing belly hugging." Blogger Lexi Mainland also noticed that people did double-takes when she was out in public wearing maternity clothes that would be perfectly okay to wear back in America.
Blogger Lexi Mainland recalled that when she was in the delivery room seaweed soup was offered to her since it supposedly can cure everything postpartum. Seawood soup's main ingredient is called "miyeok-guk," or basically, seaweed, which is said to be the best dietary source of iodine, which helps support your thyroid gland.
According to My Seoul Searching, parents expect their children to shine when it comes to their academics. "From an early age, ... children are pushed to be the very best in all that they do. My first graders often told me about their daily schedules: elementary school, [language] academy, math tutoring, taekwondo practice, and piano lessons. By the time they get home, they eat dinner, do their homework, and it's off to bed. And that's just elementary school," Mimsie Ladner, a teacher who worked in a school in Seoul observed, adding that the older their kids become, the more they are forced into studying.
According to The Culture Trip's, a baby's first birthday is a huge deal and is an "extravagant" thing in Korea. Events during the celebration include a fortune-telling ritual called dolijabi, where the baby is literally placed in front of different objects like books, paintbrushes and piggy banks. The child is then encouraged to grab an object from the table, which is believed to tell the baby's future.
Parents take off work and kids don't attend school to celebrate Children's Day in May in South Korea. According to blogger Lexi Mainland, the city of Seoul is a fantastic place to raise children because people all over South Korea adore little kids.
In Korea, as parents get older, children have a duty to look after their father and mother and care for them. According to Asia Society, children "incur a debt to their parents who gave birth to them and raised them." As parents worked to provide the best for their children growing up, they somewhat expect the same as they grow old.
In a traditional family, young children aren't disciplined right away. In fact, children were and are "indulged," where toilet training is said to be relaxed and discipline began a lot later than in U.S. homes. They "felt there was no point in disciplining children before they were old enough to reason. By the time a child reached six or seven, however, training began in earnest," reports Asia Society.
There are many core Confucian values that still remain in Korea. According to Asia Society, the male in the family is still the house head and the "division of labor within the family remains basically the same as before 1958. Men earn the living, and women take care of the house and children." However, we see that more and more women in Korea are graduating from college and finding work themselves.
As we mentioned before, parents in Korea put their children's education at the forefront and while it seems like tough love, results of these "pushy" parents have made the people extremely smart, artistic and musically inclined, reports My Seoul Searching. Mimsie Ladner writes, "I often see high school students sleeping on their books in Starbucks at 11 p.m. on any given day."
This isn't as severe as parents may think. The Huffington Post states that in Korea, eating is taught as a life skill, and in most cultures, children are taught that it is important to wait out their hunger until it is time for the entire family to sit down and eat together. "[They] do not believe it's healthy to graze or eat alone, and they don't tend to excuse bad behavior by blaming it on [needing to eat]."
In America, we usually see parents show off their children's talents, whether it's in sports or playing an instrument. However, parents there are more focused on their children's grades and academic achievements rather than their talents.
While the parents do believe in the best interests in their children, they tend to neglect what their child might actually really enjoy. According to Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. She states that she believes kids should have outdoors time, run around and be free from time to time, finding their individuality, but ... parents strive so hard to make their child fit in with a certain group, they "completely ignore their children's personalities, interests, and goals."
According to The Spruce Eats, their dining etiquette is important to learn, and consist of manners like waiting for the oldest person or people to sit down first before you take a seat, waiting for the oldest person or people to lift their spoon or chopsticks first before you start eating and trying to eat at the same pace as everyone else.
The term "Tiger Parenting" is a concept influenced by Confucianism that promotes attributes such as filial duty, family values, hard work, and dedicating yourself towards academic excellence. According to Mimsie Ladner, a negative result of tiger parenting is that children there tend to bottle up their feelings, which tends to carry on into adulthood. However, some parents believe it helps their child get to the top of the ladder.
Sources: MySeolSearching.com, asiasociety.org, huffpost.com, Steemit.com.