This paper reviews the aging of Korean society in terms of demographic transition, and explores the various social problems Korean society is facing as a result of this rapid aging and the ways in which society and families are grappling with the challenges. Economic well-being and health problems are the two most important conncerns for the elderly in Korea as well. Due to the decline in family support and the incipient stage of welfare programs, elderly Korean citizens are facing the economic hardships of an aging society. The old seem to participate in the labor market more actively than their counterparts in advanced societies, but it is because they are in danger of falling into poverty. Delaying the transition from adolescence to adulthood for Korean youths as a response to the economic recession imposes a greater burden on the middle-aged generation. The social burden of health care expenses for the growing elderly population is increasing steadily every year. If the health problems of the elderly are not dealt with properly in Korea, it will increase conflict, discord, and tragedy in families, casting a shadow over the future of society in general. It is more desirable to devise better means of caring for the elderly by combining the efforts of both state and family based on existing family values in Korea. This paper stresses that the active role of the state in caring for the elderly may stimulate and promote more participation of family into elderly care.
This study is an overview of the patterns and changes of intergenerational relations among the elderly in Korea and a discussion of its implications in the context of rapid social transformation. The theme, in the face of accelerated population aging and the continuation of the family as a main support system, has drawn the attention of researchers and policy-makers. Many have expressed concerns about the diminishing willingness and/or capacity of young family members to support their elderly ones and thus its detrimental consequences for the latter. Underlying such concern is the view that the elderly are at the receiving end of support and are passive participants in their relationship with other family members. As an ample amount of research has reported, however, many elderly members still play important roles and contribute to their families. This study, standing on the belief that intergenerational relations are varied among the elderly and dynamic over their life course, approaches some key aspects including geographic proximity, contacts and visits, exchanges of support, and attitudes toward the traditional familial role of elderly support. This study touches upon and synthesizes previous findings to draw a comprehensive picture of family relations between generations. In doing so, it focuses on sociodemographic differentials to reveal the heterogeneity of the elderly and their relationship with younger family members.
As Korean society turns into an aging society, the elderly are becoming one of the new social risk bearers due to the lack of an adequate care system. This paper deals with the experiences of elderly women who are transitioning from care giving to care receiving, representing the last phase of the gendered circuit of caring. Approaching the issue from a feminist perspective, this ethnography of the elderly reveals the perplexing position of Korean women, in particular, elderly women, and shows that Korean elderly women are the locus of contradictions and dilemmas that arise when the family, the state and the market contest, upon which the assumptions of intimacy and reciprocity, male breadwinner ideology and ideal independent elderly discourse are nested.
A large crowd of older men has been gathering at Jongmyo park in Seoul for years. These older men engage in a variety of activities at the park. Due to the boisterous nature of their activities, which I term “hang-out culture,” the park has often been dubbed an “extraterritorial zone for the old” by the media, and is now socially stigmatized as a place for older men. Despite the stigma, however, certain lifestyle tastes shared among the park visitors still attract these older men to the park. These traits can be seen as a continuity of the lifestyle taste of the current generation of older men with an “outdoor” occupational background. The hang-out culture of the park nurtures a sense of togetherness and peer group participation among the park visitors, which is beneficial for better adjustment to old age. The park also provides a social space congenial to rehearsing a positive selfhood which is so often discouraged in later life. However, the sense of togetherness among the older people at the park is not strong enough to suppress sudden dashes of desire to assert their individuality. The dominant culture does not consider the hang-out culture of the park as culturally legitimate. The cultural citizenship of the park’s hang-out culture is under contestation.
This paper analyzes the way in which Korean newspapers, situated in a society characterized by consumerism as well as heterosexist patriarchy, encourages the creation of images of “new men.” As a medium that wields public authority, newspapers report on new male images, highlighting the fact that men’s bodies are also being incorporated into physical capitalization. As grooming is increasingly common among heterosexual men, men’s grooming is being portrayed as natural and as a form of behavior that conforms to “human instinct” rather than as a deviant behavior among homosexual men. However, new male discourses incessantly emphasize masculine vitality, suggesting that it has no intent to disturb the heterosexist social order, nor to abandon the structural privileges that men and heterosexuals have collectively held.
This article examines the cultural politics of Buddhist temple food in contemporary Korea. Almost forgotten by the general public, temple food has gained growing attention from the mass media since the mid-1990s. Tracing this development, it analyzes the complex interplay between popular concerns for health and economic security, and the converging and diverging interests of the state, business, and the Buddhist establishment in mobilizing cultural differences, to further larger national and transnational politics. This article argues that the reinvention of temple food as tradition serves not only to reaffirm the national identity and ease a collective anxiety about rapid social change, but also promotes national competitiveness in the global market. It also allows us to reexamine the postcolonial view of agency tied to consumption and pleasure, rather than intentional and organized action. Popular agency in this case is not so much rooted in the pleasure of consumption as in concerns for health and economic security. These concerns are also expediently appropriated by the better organized actors—the government, business, and the Buddhist establishment.
This paper is a deontological justification of consensus democracy as an alternative model in Korean politics. Korea has experienced a crisis of representation marked by increasing exclusion of the voices of social minorities and a crisis of solidarity in which there is an absence of sufficient trust between social minorities and majorities. To solve these crises, this paper argues the need for a paradigm shift from majoritarian democracy to consensus democracy. Majoritarian democracy does not work properly as Korean society has undergone various, new cleavages from below, resulting in a widening gap between winners and losers. In contrast, consensus democracy in the form of a parliamentary system, proportional representation, and federalism may be an alternative model that could resolve people’s current discontent over Korean politics. However, many scholars criticize the inefficiency of consensus democracy based on consequentialist reasoning, which traces the result or effect of a certain policy in order to judge whether it is desirable or not. This paper argues against such criticism from the viewpoint of deontological reasoning in which a certain policy is supported as long as it bears its own value based on its capacity for normative rationalization.