[VIEWPOINT]Take a new look at wedding cultureThey say you get a few more things as you get older. I think one of them is worrying about your children. Deciding whether to have a baby or not is a matter of choice nowadays, but once you decide to have one, they don’t grow on their own. You have to worry about which school to send them to, whether they will get a job, with whom they will marry . . . Even when you consider it “the end” of your “responsibility” when they get married, the choices that you have to make until then are too much of a burden. You may think hard about the right way. When someone says one thing, you consider it right but when another person says something different, that seems right, too. Sometimes you disappoint yourself for having a lack of backbone, but many aspects of our life are the combination of such choices, aren’t they? At times like this, I wish I had a solid standard to apply.
My work requires me to examine a lot of statistics and survey results. Most of them don’t mean much to me, but sometimes there are figures that make me think, “Oh, they mean it!” The in-depth survey on “Wedding Trends of the Digital Age” that Cheil Communications carried out and announced a few days ago, after surveying the thoughts of 400 single men and women in their age group, 25 to 34, was one of them.
I’m sure some people saw it in the newspaper, but let me present a few of the statistics. The focus of the report is on the fact that “marriage is a form of investment (62.1 percent)” and “the starting point of the preparation for one’s old age (84.4 percent).” However, the point that appealed to me more strongly was the focus on immediate things. For example, “If I get married, I will take care of the wedding preparations myself instead of leaving it to my parents (90.8 percent),” “It is best to minimize spending on wedding expenses and buying traditional marriage items (88.4 percent),” “Bank books for real estate subscriptions, stocks or insurance certificates are good alternatives to marriage items (87.8 percent),” and “A business mind is necessary for marriage life nowadays (90.6 percent).”
There were a few answers that sounded to me, as a parent, disagreeable, such as “I will not have a child until I can lead more or less a settled life (65.5 percent),” but I was surprised by the spirit of independence and soundness of the younger generation’s “own opinions.”
Frankly, one of the things that worry me most about weddings nowadays is the pointless “expenditure competition” people have gotten into. As the minds of parents are the same, I can understand people wanting to do the best for their children, but watching people pour tens of millions of won into wedding items, I cannot but help think “Is this the right thing to do?”
Let’s look at another statistic. The Korean Consumer Protection Board conducted a survey of 428 newly-wed couples three years ago. The result showed that 40 percent of the couples had some kind of conflict with their spouse (not their in-laws!) because of wedding gifts, and the survey that included their parents showed that 96 percent of them agreed that there were problems in our wedding customs. The problems were the custom of face-saving and showing off. But who was trying to save face and show off? Did the sons and daughters want an expensive outfit that they could only wear a few times a year, to eat expensive food that they could not afford on ordinary days and to calculate the money they would receive from wedding guests?
I am not saying I am unaware of the serious dependency today on the psychology of children. Here is another absurd statistic. The “Korean family survey and Korean family report” conducted by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family in 2003 asked 1,487 adolescents, ages 10 to 19: “How much financial responsibility should parents bear for their children?
They answered that parents should definitely pay for their education, and between 83.5 percent (boys) and 87.5 percent (girls) answered that parents should pay for wedding expenses, while 74 percent (boys) to 71.7 percent (girls) answered that parents should pay for all or part of the expenses needed to buy or lease their first house. On top of that, a little more than 25 percent of both boys and girls said they thought that parents should pay their living expenses, even after they get married. Nevertheless, I think parents are largely responsible for letting their children have such absurd ideas and consider overprotection to be natural. I think parents should look at these statistics and change their way of thinking. There are more than a couple of things for us to think about, including the fact that the dependency on the psychology of adolescents is due to “over-protectiveness” and that “the desire to show off” makes young people, who have to face social reality, ignore the realistic value of marriage. Is the parents’ practice of blindly protecting their children, as they feel and experience life’s difficulties, really their duty and a virtue? Isn’t there an improper desire to show off behind such attitudes?
* The writer is the chief of the editorial page of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Park Tae-wook