[VIEWPOINT]Koreans' Love of Family a Holiday GiftOne day I was having lunch with a manager from our distributor and we started talking about his family. He said his older brother, who owns a small company, almost went bankrupt during the economic crisis. He said that right before the company went bankrupt the brother came to tell him that he was no longer able to support his family. After listening to his brother's story, the younger brother decided to give him the title to his apartment, his only asset, which he had saved 15 years to own. His brother used the title as collateral for a bank loan. Also, the younger brother started sending a portion of his salary to his sister-in-law every month to pay for some of their household expenses. This continued for more than a year.
Listening to his story, I started to have many questions. Did he discuss the situation with his wife? Did his brother's business survive? Is his apartment safe? Did his brother pay back the money? What would you have done if your brother's company had gone bankrupt and lost your apartment? My questions did not end.
As a Westerner, there were many things I could not understand. It was because this was not a matter of parents supporting their son, but rather a situation between brothers who were grown-ups leading their own lives. Even if it were to help one's parents, how many Westerners would put up the house they live in as collateral on a loan?
He said his wife was not against him helping out his brother. The manager said that, fortunately, his brother's business survived and he got the title to the apartment back. He did not get the money back, however. What would he have done if his brother's company had gone bankrupt? He answered: "There is nothing I would have done. I would have started from scratch." He also said that between siblings love is much more important than money.
He said that when a sibling is in trouble, one must help out. He added, "If I were in the same situation, my brother would have put everything on the line to help me out too."
During the Chuseok holidays, all the roads in Korea turn into a parking lot with people traveling to their hometowns. It takes more than ten hours to travel from Seoul to Pusan or Kwangju. Sometimes, it takes more than 15 hours, the time required to travel from Seoul to the United States. Seoul becomes very quiet and empty during the holidays so that foreigners who have lived in Korea for a while now think vacationing in Seoul during this time can be relaxing.
When I first came to Korea, I did not quite understand why people go through such trouble to visit their hometowns. In my opinion, the time Koreans spend with their families during the holidays is too short, especially if you consider the traveling time for the four- or five-day holiday. Not only that, driving long hours can be very tiresome.
Like Chuseok and Lunar New Year, Americans also have meaningful holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, during which people travel miles to spend time with their families. But, if most of the time were spent on the road traveling to and from destinations to visit relatives, with very little time to spend with family, many Americans might not chose to visit their hometowns.
Having lived in Korea for more than five years now, I understand and have great respect for the love Koreans have for their family, which is expressed through their selflessness and willingness to travel long hours to spend a short amount of time together.
I believe such love for family is the true value of Koreans, which makes this society and the world a brighter and better place. No matter how much the world will change, I hope the love Koreans have for their family will last forever.
The writer is the President of DaimlerChrysler Korea.
by Wayne Chumley