Young Koreans' Ideas of Filial Duty Are Changing

  • By Choi Eun-kyung

    February 28, 2023 08:24

    Younger Koreans no longer feel they should be responsible for caring for their aging parents and instead believe that should be the duty of the state.
    As Korea ages, households with family members in hospital has grown and coverage by health insurance has also risen, which is changing attitudes to filial duty and family.
    In a new poll by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs of 7,865 households, only 21.39 percent of respondents said children are responsible for supporting their aging parents, while almost half or 49.14 percent felt the aged should support themselves.
    When the survey was first conducted in 2007, 52.6 percent still felt children are obliged to support their aging parents. But by 2013 the proportion had dwindled to 35.45 percent, and it has been shrinking since.
    Attitudes to the family have also changed considerably. Another test case is whether mothers should stay at home and care for their children. In 2007, 64.7 percent felt women should stay at home, but that fell to 39.6 percent in 2022, while the proportion who disagreed almost doubled from 17.6 percent to 31.22 percent.
    As Korea ages, the main causes of domestic conflict also changed. Fifteen years ago, 28.2 percent of respondents cited financial difficulties as the chief cause of arguments. But last year 50.44 percent cited health problems of family members as the chief reason for disputes.
    The average number of days a year that one member of a household spent in hospital rose from 1.8 days in 2006 to 16.28 days in 2021, and Koreans increasingly believe that state health insurance must step in, up from 53.9 percent to 72.35 percent over the period.
    The institute also noted that more Koreans support the idea of universal welfare rather than for poor households only. But the ratio of supporters and detractors varied according to income levels. Some 43.83 percent of low-income households supported selective welfare, while the exact same proportion of middle-income households supported universal coverage.
    Lee Bong-joo at Seoul National University said, "More and more people now believe that the state is responsible for caring for the elderly. And it is evident that the gap in income between rich and poor is growing wider."
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