Neoliberal Individualization and the Modified Familism of Korea: The Case of Unmarrieds in Their 30s

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: 502
Oral Presentation
Hye-Kyung KIM , Chonbuk National University, South Korea
As one of countries with the record low fertility rate Korea has the sharp concern  in the unmarriedness among youth. The explanations on the issue has been given to the causes such as economic condition or individualism among them, which seem to be insufficient. This article aims to analyze the marriage attitude among the unmarried people in their late thirties focusing on the complexity of their family value. That purpose is to explain the characteristics of the individualization in  intimacy in the times of the late modernity relating with the strong familism and the kinship system of the patrilineality privileging the first son.  The analysis on the life course is also the main theme in this research. The economic crisis of Korea under the IMF-led bailout programs started to be intensified from the year of 1998 when the cohort group of birth in 1975 started to graduate from the universities. So this article selected 19 unmarried men and women from the target group, who were thirty eight years old. 

The result shows the great gender differences in the narratives of family value. Men interviewees tend to tell the sons' responsibility of the care for the parents and the role of the male provider, while the women counterparts focus on seeking the self and making the lives of their own. But the sexual lives of both seemed very limited, and their emotional ties were commonly connected with their parents, especially with mothers.  Their living arrangements were never separated from their parents'. So we can call the recent changes among them as 'the family-oriented individualization'