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Seoul Shock: Korean Dads

Seoul Shocker is staff writer Danielle Davidson’s firsthand experience with living abroad in Seoul, South Korea.

When an ad comes on the big-screen at the movie theater, telling fathers to stop working so much and go play with their children, questions begin to rise. Why do Korean fathers need to be told to spend time at home?

The pressure for a husband and father to provide the best possible life for his family is intense here, and leads to the stereotypical view of Korean fathers being stern, unmoving, emotionless machines.

My Korean friend went for weeks at a time without seeing her father, and she grew to hate him for his absence and his stone-like demeanor. But, pressure to provide for his wife and daughters drove him to work long hours.

Another friend, after overhearing a conversation between my father and I on the phone, expressed she was envious of the carefree, friendly way we talked.

I didn’t understand at first, because I didn’t know anything different, and in my ignorance I asked her why.

Her eyes widened and she laughed as she said she couldn’t imagine ever being friends with her father who simply gave orders, making things more like the army than a father-daughter relationship.

Family dynamics between parents and children are different in general, because if a child works or goes to school in the same city as their parents, then they live at home.

Moving out after marriage is the social norm here, and living with mom and dad until 30 or later is expected.

The only exceptions I’ve seen, and the ones my Korean language professor confirmed, are work and school. Though in some cases I’ve seen, the kids who live away from home still go home on the weekends.

It depends on the family and the situation, and Korea is constantly changing at a rapid pace, so who knows what the next generations will hold.