Alpha at Work, Omega at Life: Korea's Superwomen

      May 23, 2008 08:50

      "Others envy my daughter, who's a doctor, but she's a pain in the neck to me," grumbles Hwang (61) concerning her 35-year-old single daughter. "Who would understand my worries?" Just that morning, the daughter rang asking her mother to take care of her unpaid electricity bills.

      Hwang used to brag about her doctor daughter, but now she is starting to worry about how much longer she will have to look after her. Kim, in her 50s, shares the same concerns about her daughter, a university instructor. She's appalled that her educated daughter has declared to marry a divorced man, and that she was the one who asked him for his hand.

      Mothers of so-called alpha girls -- girls or women who beat their male counterparts in all areas from academic prowess to sports -- have a tough job in Korea. For while their daughters are exceptional in their work and abilities, many are hopeless when it comes to practicalities such as dating or managing their money.

      ◆ Alpha at Work, Omega in Love

      Experts say it's no coincident that alpha girls often prove omega girls (from the last letter in the Greek alphabet) when it comes to romance. Whang Sang-min, a professor of psychology at Yonsei University, says alpha girls are obsessed with having to excel in everything and more likely to form unsuitable relationships, attracted as they tend to be to older men and lacking the needed concern for the partner's financial capacity.

      Park Jin-seng, the director of Dr. Park's Psychiatric Clinic, says these women unconsciously dislike men they have to compete with, so they gravitate toward men with lowlier jobs than theirs or even no job at all.

      ◆ Eyesore to Mothers

      When they become alpha mums, such women often pass on the duty of child rearing and homemaking to their mothers. Hahm In-hee, a sociology professor at Ewha Womans University, says alpha girls in the West leave their parents early so they become superwomen in both work and real life, but here lack of independence is to blame for their Korean sisters' lack of competencies in real life.

      ◆ Excessive Protection a No-No

      "Alpha girl" originally means a woman thoroughly capable of self-management in all aspects of life. But in Korea, the job element is inflated, distorting the true meaning. Prof. Hwang points out that many parents, bent on raising studious daughters, are neglecting the competencies needed to manage a full life. Park, too, advises parents to acknowledge their daughters as independent beings and instill that mindset in them.

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