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What is family structure in Korean culture?


In this article, we will delve into the family structure of Korean culture. The family is an integral part of Korean society, and it is considered the cornerstone of social stability. The family in Korea is structured in a way that differs from Western cultures, and it is important to understand these differences to appreciate the values and customs of Korean society.

Traditional Family Structure in Korea

The traditional family structure in Korea is patriarchal, with the father as the head of the household. The father’s role is to provide for the family financially, while the mother’s role is to take care of the domestic duties and raise the children. The eldest son has a special role in the family hierarchy, as he is responsible for carrying on the family line and taking care of his parents when they get older.

Changes in Family Structure

In recent years, there have been significant changes to the traditional family structure in Korea. With more women entering the workforce, there has been a shift towards a more equal division of labor within households. Additionally, there has been a rise in single-parent households and families with both parents working outside the home.

Extended Family

In Korean culture, extended family ties are very important. It is common for grandparents to live with their adult children and grandchildren, and they play an active role in raising the children. Uncles, aunts, and cousins also play a significant role in family life.

Respect for Elders

One of the core values of Korean culture is respect for elders. This extends to the family structure, where children are expected to obey their parents and grandparents. Older family members are also given priority when it comes to decision-making within the family.

Bowing to Elders

A common practice in Korean culture is bowing to elders as a sign of respect. When greeting an elder or saying goodbye, it is customary to bow with a slight bend at the waist. The depth of the bow varies depending on the age and status of the person being bowed to.

Family Names

In Korea, family names carry a lot of weight and are considered an important part of one’s identity. Family names are passed down from generation to generation, and it is uncommon for someone to change their name.

Birth Order

Birth order is significant in Korean culture, with the eldest child being given a special status within the family. The eldest son is expected to take care of his parents in their old age and carry on the family line.

Marrying into the Family

In Korean culture, marriage is seen as a union between two families, not just two individuals. When someone marries into a Korean family, they are expected to assimilate into the family structure and follow its customs and traditions.

Family Events and Holidays

Family events and holidays are highly valued in Korean culture. Traditional events such as Chuseok (harvest festival) and Seollal (Lunar New Year) are times when families come together to share food and honor their ancestors.

Education and Success

Education is highly valued in Korean culture, and parents often place a lot of pressure on their children to succeed academically. Success in school is seen as a way to ensure a stable future for the family.


In conclusion, the family structure in Korean culture is deeply rooted in tradition and respect for elders. While there have been changes in recent years, with more women entering the workforce and single-parent households becoming more common, extended family ties remain strong. Family events and holidays are an important part of Korean culture, and success in education is highly valued. Understanding the family structure in Korean culture is essential to understanding the values and customs of this rich and complex society.

What are 5 Korean family values?

Confucianism established certain traditional Korean values and customs, such as respecting the authority of fathers, wives being obedient to their husbands, children obeying their parents, showing filial piety and submitting oneself to the family, obeying civil authorities, and having high expectations for education. These values were outlined by Lehrer in 1996.

What was the Korean social structure?

There were four societal classes in this system, including the yangban nobility, the middle-class jungin, the commoner sangmin, and the outcast cheonmin who were at the bottom. The yangban class, which made up 10% of the population, had several advantages and were the ruling class. Slaves were considered to be of the lowest status in this system.

How are marriages arranged in Korea?

In traditional Korean culture, parents hire matchmakers to arrange marriages for their children when they are ready to get married. Matchmakers are often elderly women with expertise in Asian astrology.

Why do Koreans stay with their parents?

Some adult children choose to live with their aging parents to provide easier care and save money for their own future, while others, particularly single women, may find it difficult to move out due to their parents’ conservative beliefs. This arrangement provides benefits for both parties involved.

What are the traditional Korean family values?

Even in modern times, Korean cultural values prioritize hard work, obedience to family, protection of the family, and proper behavior among family members. These values are deeply ingrained in Korean society.

How big is a typical Korean family?

As of August 10, 2022, the typical South Korean household had approximately 2.3 members.

Gender Roles in Korean Families

While traditional gender roles still exist in Korean families, there has been a shift towards more gender equality in recent years. Women are now encouraged to pursue education and careers outside of the home, although they are still expected to take care of domestic duties and child-rearing. Men are also taking on more responsibilities within the household, such as cooking and cleaning.

Modern Challenges for Korean Families

Like many other countries, Korean families face modern challenges such as work-life balance and technology addiction. Many parents struggle to balance their work schedules with family time, leading to stress and burnout. Additionally, the prevalence of smartphones and social media has led to concerns about technology addiction and its impact on family relationships.

The Role of Confucianism in Family Structure

Confucianism has played a significant role in shaping the family structure in Korean culture. Its emphasis on filial piety, respect for elders, and hierarchical relationships has influenced the traditional patriarchal family structure. However, the influence of Confucianism has decreased in modern times as Korea has become more Westernized.

Adoption in Korean Families

Adoption is common in Korean families, particularly due to cultural beliefs surrounding infertility and the desire for male children. Adopted children are often treated as if they were biological children, and they are expected to assimilate into the family structure and follow its customs and traditions.


The family structure in Korean culture is complex and deeply rooted in tradition. While there have been changes in recent years, traditional values such as respect for elders and extended family ties remain strong. Understanding these values is essential to understanding the customs and traditions of Korean society. As Korea continues to modernize, it will be interesting to see how the family structure evolves to meet new challenges and changing social norms.

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