Thursday, February 01, 2007

Things I Appreciate About Korean Culture, Part I

In all my posts about Korean culture, maybe I've been coming off a bit harsh. Just to dispel any rumors, I don't hate Korean culture. In fact, there are some things about it that I appreciate greatly. I'll showcase some of them here.

**So Many Disclaimers: 1) I see the value in having to support yourself through your schooling, so I'm not looking down on that philosophy. 2) When I refer to someone else's parents, always preface it with "The average traditional American/Korean." 3) If you are parents and can't afford to help your kids out with everything, I don't look down on you either. My parents just had me and my sister.

The average traditional Korean parents provide almost everything financially for their children. In typical American culture, lots of young men and women are pushed to get jobs so that they can help pay for their college. Throughout high school and college, my parents never pushed me very hard to get a part-time job while I was in school. They never mentioned anything about getting a job, except when I got in my 2nd half of college. And that was more for the sake of job experience and foot-in-the-door than for feeding and supporting myself. I never had to drum up money so I could buy needed shoes (unless I obviously didn't need new shoes). I never had to make car payments or anything like that (for one, because they paid in full). And we were never made to work through college so that we could put all of the money towards college. My parents made payments on my loans for all 5 years while I was in college, even when I insisted on shouldering it myself in my 3rd year. For that I am grateful, because it means a LOT less money to pay back later.

"How can all that be a good thing?" Well, with some people, it wouldn't be a good thing. For example, if you got unlucky and had terribly ungrateful kids who kept trying to take advantage of your money. But my sister and I seem to have turned out better than that. Not having to work to pay for our own college helped us to be able to focus more on our studies, rather than having to worry about how we were going to pay for the next semester. This especially would've been hard for me, going to an out-of-state school. That much less stress probably led to a more pleasant college experience for me. By the end of college, (although I appreciated their support immensely) I was practically making them stop paying for things for me, because I wanted to be free from their support.

The other day, I was listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio. He was talking about how when his kids turned 18, that they were taken right off his car insurance and placed on their own, saying that if they got themselves into messes, they were completely on their own to take care of things. That sounds very cold to me, especially from someone who has so much money. Maybe I'll think differently one day, but if my kids had been in an accident and needed help, I would gladly provide it for them (assuming it wasn't a product of their own stupidity). They're my kids. Now, this has its limits, of course; if they're 40 and married with children, I would expect them to handle things on their own. But 18 is still really young (no matter what 18 year olds might think) and I would still be very willing to help, within reason. I would probably help even if it were a product of their stupidity; in that case, however, I would make them pay back later. I'm almost certain that my parents would have provided help if something bad had happened to me in college.

You might be thinking, "Well, all this just breeds codependence." That might be true of some Korean kids. But I really don't think it's true for me. I'm married now, the wedding has come and gone, and so I provide for my own family without help from my parents. Thankfully, we're in a financial situation where I don't need their help. Maybe all this responsibility makes me a fluke among young people these days. But I am immensely grateful that my parents helped me get to a good financial foundation.

And I'm realizing this post is getting very long, so look for a Part II (and/or III) soon.

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  • Meredith

    The car insurance strategy Ramsey mentions has two thoughts behind it:

    1. Children must learn that speeding tickets will equal higher car insurance payments. It is the most effective way to keep them driving safe.

    2. Taking the children off the parent's policy lessens liability should the children get in a serious wreck. Especially for someone with as much personal wealth as Ramsey, this is simply pragmatic. Otherwise, the parents could be sued above what the insurance pays.

  • JunkMale


    You speak the truth. I did get a speeding ticket once, and haven't gotten one since. I suppose that was more because I feared the wrath of Dad.

    Perhaps it was more in the way he stated the thing about kids and parents' car insurance. It sounded very cold to me, like he wasn't ever going to help his kids if they were in dire need with car stuff. If he'd stated it the way you did, maybe I wouldn't have felt the same way.