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Why do Koreans respect their elders so much?


Korea is known for its unique culture, and one of the most notable aspects of that is the respect shown to elders. This respect is deeply ingrained in Korean society and extends beyond just family members. In this article, we will explore the reasons why Koreans respect their elders so much.

Confucianism and Traditional Values

Confucianism has had a significant impact on Korean culture, and one of its tenets is respect for elders. Traditional Korean values place great importance on filial piety, which includes respecting and caring for one’s parents and grandparents.

Elderly Population and Aging Society

Korea has an aging population, with a large number of elderly citizens. This demographic shift has increased awareness of the importance of respecting elders and supporting them in their later years.

Family Structure

In Korean culture, families tend to be close-knit, with multiple generations often living together under one roof. This close proximity fosters a greater sense of respect and responsibility towards elders.

Education and Cultural Upbringing

From a young age, Koreans are taught to respect their elders as part of their cultural upbringing. This respect is reinforced through education, with schools placing great emphasis on traditional values and Confucianism.

Role Models and Leaders

In Korean society, leaders and role models are often older individuals who are respected for their experience and wisdom. This reinforces the idea that age brings knowledge and should be respected.

Collectivist Culture

Korean culture is collectivist, emphasizing the importance of the group over the individual. This mindset extends to the treatment of elders, who are seen as an integral part of the family unit and society as a whole.

Language and Honorifics

The Korean language has a complex system of honorifics, which are used to show respect to elders and those in positions of authority. This linguistic tradition reinforces the cultural value of respecting one’s elders.

History and Cultural Trauma

Korea has a long history of foreign invasion and cultural trauma. These experiences have led to an emphasis on preserving traditional values, including respect for elders, as a way of maintaining cultural identity.

Military Service

All able-bodied Korean men are required to serve in the military, which fosters a strong sense of discipline and respect for authority. This mindset is reinforced when serving with older and more experienced soldiers.

Government Policies and Programs

The Korean government has implemented policies and programs to support elderly citizens and promote intergenerational relationships. These efforts have helped to reinforce the value of respecting elders in Korean society.


In conclusion, Koreans respect their elders for a variety of reasons, including traditional values, cultural upbringing, family structure, language, and history. This respect is deeply ingrained in Korean society and extends beyond just family members. As Korea’s population continues to age, the importance of respecting elders will only grow.

Why are elders respected in Korea?

The Korean family system is centered around showing respect for elders and practicing filial piety. Older family members are highly regarded for their knowledge and are often sought out for guidance and help in resolving family issues. This practice is heavily influenced by the Confucian idea of filial piety.

Why is respect so important in Korean culture?

In Korean culture, showing respect towards those who are older or have a higher status is crucial, and this hierarchical structure influences all social interactions. Each person has a designated role within society based on their position, and it is essential to honor this hierarchy. Koreans prefer to interact with those they view as their equals.

What does South Korean culture say about respect for elders?

Respect should always be shown to those that are older than you. This involves deferring to their opinion, waiting for their input and lowering your gaze if they are an elder. Objects, gifts and food should be offered and received with two hands. Remove your hat when indoors.

How do South Koreans treat their elders?

In Confucianism, it is important to always show the elderly the utmost respect. Young Koreans would never act disrespectfully, such as lounging around or wearing sunglasses, when elders are present, and would not expect to be served before them. Friendships are the one area where Koreans can interact as equals.

Do Koreans avoid eye contact?

Korean culture considers it impolite to maintain direct eye contact while conversing, particularly when receiving criticism or reprimand from people of higher rank or age. In contrast to some other cultures where eye contact is a form of non-verbal communication, this is not the case in Korean culture.

What are 5 values about Korean people?

In Korean culture, family obedience, hard work, family protection, and proper behavior are highly valued and still hold significance in today’s society. When attending social events, it is crucial to wait for introductions and bowing is a traditional way of greeting.

Another reason why Koreans respect their elders is because of the sacrifices that the older generation made for their country. The older generation lived through a time of war and economic hardship, and they worked hard to rebuild and modernize the country. This sacrifice is highly valued, and younger generations pay respect to their elders as a way of acknowledging the role they played in building the country.

The Korean concept of jeong also plays a role in the respect shown to elders. Jeong is a deep emotional bond that is formed between people, and it is highly valued in Korean culture. Elders are seen as deserving of jeong, and younger generations show respect as a way of strengthening this bond.

In recent years, there has been concern about the erosion of traditional values in Korea, including respect for elders. However, there has also been a push to reinforce these values, with campaigns aimed at promoting intergenerational relationships and encouraging young people to volunteer in programs that support the elderly.

Overall, the respect shown to elders in Korean culture is deeply ingrained and multifaceted. From traditional values and family structure to language and history, there are many factors that contribute to this cultural norm. As Korea continues to modernize and change, it will be interesting to see how this value evolves over time.

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