Plight of a sandwiched generationKorean baby boomers are called the “sandwiched generation,” squeezed between filial and parental duties. Due to customs and traditional values, they have willingly supported their parents and because of customs and proper parenting, they happily supported the education of their children. But their children, accustomed to Western values and an individualistic lifestyle, are not as committed to their parents. The JoongAng Ilbo recently investigated the state of the older generation, which has fallen into poverty, abandoned after giving all their wealth to their children.
A study of 226 civil claims on filial support and duties showed that three out of 10 were filed by people who had no money after bequeathing wealth to their children. They sought court interference to force their children to support them, claiming they were abandoned after they gave away their assets. They lived on 340,000 won ($333) a month, mostly from their retirement pension. The scenes at the court were more disturbing. Most of the defendants addressed their parents as Mr. and Mrs. instead of father or mother. Parents and children became enemies. Siblings fought among themselves and took sides.
We have a traditional and universal duty to support the elderly and particularly our parents. Anyone who shuns these fundamental duties should be punished legally and financially.
Today’s younger generation must be better educated on character, even if the cases in court are extreme.
The older generation also must change their mindset and behavior toward their children. Their children have grown up in an entirely different environment than theirs. They must prepare for their senior years without any expectations to receive care from their children.
They must not overly indulge their children in education and financial support. Generosity can undermine a sense of independence in the young generation and hurt the overall health of society. The government at the same time must expand the social safety net for poor elderly citizens who have no one to turn to for support.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 18, Page 30