중앙데일리

Investing in futures

Koreans’ retirement funds are their children

Jan 11,2004
The following is a tip on traditional Korean language and customs in response to a query from a Mr. Hermann, who wrote to us from New York:

Q. Mr. Hermann:
I married a lovely Korean woman whom I met in the United States, where she studied and lived for 10 years. My wife misses her family very much, but because both of us can’t travel overseas together too easily, we decided to invite her parents here instead and bought them both plane tickets. Our apartment is small, so we put them up in a hotel not far from home. I didn’t plan on paying for their hotel, but my wife insisted we pay, so we did.

All of us had a reasonably good time together ―until her parents mentioned we should start sending them money, on a regular basis, even every month.

Following my wife’s suggestion, I have sent money to her parents on their birthdays in the past, which I thought was strange. I also had to send a lump sum of cash to my wife’s sister in Korea for her wedding. My wife tells me her parents think of her as their “asset,” like a piece of real estate. I don’t mind helping out the people my wife dearly loves, but I think it may be going too far.

A. IHT-JAD:
In Korea, family ties are typically much stronger than those in most Western countries.

The traditional belief in Korea is that parents are obliged to support their children financially, and many grown-ups live off (and with) their parents until marriage. Once children are old enough, the roles are reversed: It is they who take care of their aging parents’ needs. In a country where a Western-style Social Security system doesn’t exist, close family ties have long been the only means to a family’s survival. The social structure has dramatically changed recently, but many older parents still expect financial support from their children, in whom they have “fully invested.”


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