Sunday, December 25, 2011

Family Customs of Koreans

From olden times, the Korean nation regarded it as part of mores to make much of politeness and help each other. In particular, it became customary to respect seniors like parents, take care of juniors and live harmoniously. This can be known through history records.
Conjugal relations
The Koreans strove to ensure a harmonious family life, thinking that everything goes well with a harmonious family. From of old, in Korea, both man and wife managed their household together in unity. So they led a harmonious life—the man never treated his wife cruelly. Such way of life promoted the conjugal relations soundly and morally.

An old record of a foreign country says that in Ancient Korea (the early 30th century B.C.–108 B.C.) women were well-behaved and trustworthy. The conjugal relations based on good behaviour and trust can be proved by the Story of Tomi and His Wife recorded in Samguksagi (the Chronicles of the Three Kingdoms).

Tomi, a man of Paekje (the late 1st century B.C.–660), was faithful, and his wife was well known for her beauty, chastity and good behaviour. In spite of temptation and compulsion by King Kaeru, the head of Paekje’s feudal ruling class, the couple held fast to their conjugal trust and obligation so that they were held in affection by the people.

In Korea it is a custom for married man and woman to live together to the end of their life without swerving from the path of trust and obligation. So the saying “Until the hair turns grey” has long been handed down. It means that man and wife should live in harmony until their hair turns grey, that is, as long as they are alive. It shows that it is a custom of Korea for man and wife to hold fast to what they promise when they are married.

The conjugal relations are also based on mutual affection and respect.

Here is a short story. Kang Su, who was a famous writer in the 7th century, married a daughter of a smith. His father, who was unpleased with their marriage, tried to marry him to a woman of a neighbouring village. Kang Su refused to do so, saying that according to the ancients, a man should not slight his wife who shared with him in his hardships while eating chaff, and that so he couldn’t discard his wife. Despite his father’s coercion, Kang Su remained faithful to his wife. This shows that in Korea men and women, once married, maintained their conjugal relations based on love, respect, trust and faith from olden times.

This is a traditional living custom of the Korean people who made much of truth and morals while hating dissipation. It enabled man and wife to manage their household in cooperation while supporting each other.

(To be continued )

Kim Won Nam

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