Aug 24, 2010

Divorce & Korea

This evening i trotted off to my Korean language classes, same time, same place every week. I was dreading it a bit because we've just had 3 weeks off for holidays, and i was feeling pretty rusty. Anyway, it was nice to see everyone, especially our lovely teacher, Sarah. 
The class got started as usual, and with todays focus being on reviewing what we did in our last class; numbers, prepositions, question words...then we got onto family. Someone in the class (bearing in mind there are only 5 of us, on a good day) put their hand up to ask for the Korean word for step mother. Sarah looked a little confused, but then offered us a word. Then words like step brother, ex wife, ex husband, and finally I asked for the Korean word for divorce. Sarah took a while in answering this, and eventually gave us the word 이혼 (pronounced eehon). She then proceeded to tell us that this word is almost never used in Korea, and "in olden days" there was no divorce, but now, "a little" but most people don't say the word. To this, someone else rudely asked, "So then do people in Korea just stay together and be unhappy?". I thought this was a rather obnoxious thing to say, as Korean culture is completely different to western culture, and sweeping generalizations like this can't be made.
  Suddenly, i felt very sad. I looked around and realized that 5 out of 5 of us needed to know the above words; basically meaning that all of our families are divided, or split up because of divorce, and Sarah was almost bewildered as to why we needed to know these words.

So this got me thinking about statistics, and I did a little bit of research. The following are some of the divorce rates for the countries listed:

United States:           41% (Marriage 101)
South Korea           5.1% (Statistics South Korea)
South Africa

 I have become a statistic, my brother has become a statistic, my parents have become statistics. 
I don't need anyone to feel sorry for me, or tell me that my parents still love me the same. I know they do, they just don't love each other the same, and this makes me sad. 

Western countries have become more liberal, right? And everyone deserves to be happy, right? So then are Korean people more happy than Americans??? Or do Koreans work on their marriages better?? Or do Koreans sweep issues under the carpet, and stay together for the sake of their family?? A more in depth study would have to be done for sure, but what do you think?


  1. Being a woman in either Korea is no bed of roses.

    And surely, you would think that divorce would be better than living a life as pitiful as this, but that is the life that so many are forced to "endure" in this society.

  2. Hi John, interesting comment. Thank you for sharing!
    I think perhaps a lot has to do with appearances too. It is frowned upon to get divorced, and so, rather be unhappy than to have people to look down on you.

  3. A lot also has to do with once a woman is divorced she's basically a bad egg and no Korean man wants "damaged" goods (or however you want to put it) plus his family wouldn't allow it

    A lot of Koreans stay together for their family because in Korea if you do divorce then the children live with one parent and pretty much the other won't see their children (they don't really believe in shared custody)

    This is stuff that a lot of my Korean friends have said (both my younger ones about their parents and also the older ones that are married themselves)