Plenty of ‘horror’ on Chuseok holidays

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Plenty of ‘horror’ on Chuseok holidays


“I’ve never met your ancestors, so why should I prepare food for the ritual? Your family had no contribution on my upbringing. Am I a daughter-in-law or a maid? I didn’t sign up for this when I got married.”

Before the Chuseok holiday, a friend sent me the poem titled “Daughter-in-law’s Lament.” The anonymous writer has evoked empathy from many young daughters-in-law during the holiday season. And a picture of a daughter-in-law stirred up social networks and the Internet. Dressed in a formal traditional costume, she was standing in front of a fully prepared table for the ancestral rite, showing her middle finger. While many considered the photo obnoxious and offensive, some argued that it must be a staged fabrication, while others consider it relieving.

Personally, I found the poem and the picture offensive. Depending on your situation, your perspective changes. Since I have grown children, I sympathize more with the mother-in-law than the daughter-in-law. However, regardless of how I feel, the “horror stories” of the holiday are very much real. The holiday is no longer associated with happiness, sharing and family love, but more with stress, depression and divorce. Statistics show that the number of divorce filings immediately after the holidays goes up by 12 percent from the previous month. Industries focus on gifts before the holidays, but popular post-holiday products are related to stress relief. After the holiday season, people spend money on getting over their stress.

What has happened now? Perhaps, the change in family structure is the main cause. Nowadays, the patriarchal system has collapsed, and the husband’s family is no longer prioritized. Couples want an equal relationship. Now, women despise the in-laws who want to intervene in the couple-oriented nuclear families. While the relationship and concept of families are changing over time, attempts to go against the trends are made on holidays. The forgotten ancestral worship and filial piety are demanded, and backward patriarchal ideals come back, leading to serious tension between family members. So some members in vulnerable positions find holidays “cruel.”

Confucian values of filial piety and brotherly love have not expired. But filial piety has lost its way while trying to fit into modern family dynamics. In the past, filial piety was continued through obedience and sacrifice of women and the younger generation, and the old costume goes against the modern zeitgeist. Now, we need to dissolve the conventional ideas of families and develop a new family love. A family is not a single entity but solidarity between independent and equal individuals.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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