Men’s counseling center helps those in hard timesThe last few years have stressed Korean men, according to Lee Ok-i, director of the Korea Men’s Telephone, a counseling center.
“Korean men have lost their jobs due to economic difficulties and are increasingly being divorced by their wives,” Ms. Lee said.
The center, which operates a hotline for distressed men, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.
“Our job is mainly to listen to the woes of men who have marital problems and have no one to talk to,” Ms. Lee said.
She pointed out that the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 was one of the main sources of problems between married couples ― especially middle or lower-income families.
“As men received pay cuts or were laid off, women started working,” she said. “Naturally, women began to demand equality in making decisions or doing housework, but Korean men were not ready to accept that.”
Ms. Lee said that Korean women have been very quick to change their way of thinking, but men haven’t been able to catch up at the same pace.
“A lot of men who come to us don’t even know why their wives are divorcing them,” she said. “They don’t understand why their wives are frustrated.”
Ms. Lee said she became a counselor after experiencing family troubles.
“I was what you could call an ordinary housewife,” she said. “When I went to a counseling center because of problems with my husband, the counselor suggested that I take some courses in counseling, saying that it would help my understanding of other people. When I started listening to other people’s problems, mine didn’t seem to be problems at all.”
After doing some volunteer counseling work, Ms. Lee decided 10 years ago to open her own center with a focus on helping men. She opened up a small office with her own funds; the non-profit center currently operates on government and private support.
“I feel most rewarded when couples who have been separated get back together after receiving counseling,” Ms. Lee said. “Sometimes it takes a few months, sometimes a year, but it is heartening to see that with effort, happiness can return.”
by Shin Ye-ri
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