Twelve chapters, portraying diverse aspects of the contemporary Korean families and showing how they have come to have their current shapes


Korean families have changed significantly during the last few decades in their composition, structure, attitudes, and function. Delayed and forgone marriage, fertility decline, and rising divorce rates are just a few examples of changes that Korean families have experienced at a rapid pace, more dramatic than in many other contemporary societies. Moreover, the increase of marriages between Korean men and foreign women has further diversified Korean families. Yet traditional norms and attitudes toward gender and family continue to shape Korean men and women’s family behaviors.

Korean Families Yesterday and Today portrays diverse aspects of the contemporary Korean families and, by explicitly or implicitly situating contemporary families within a comparative historical perspective, reveal how the past of Korean families evolved into their current shapes. While the study of families can be approached in many different angles, our lens focuses on families with children or young adults who are about to forge family through marriage and other means. This focus reflects that delayed marriage and declined fertility are two sweeping demographic trends in Korea, affecting family formation. Moreover, “intensive” parenting has characterized Korean young parents and therefore, examining change and persistence in parenting provides important clues for family change in Korea.

This volume should be of interest not only to readers who are interested in Korea but also to those who want to understand broad family changes in East Asia in comparative perspective.

Hyunjoon Park is Korea Foundation Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Hyeyoung Woo is Associate Professor of Sociology at Portland State University.

"Dramatic family change in South Korea is a potentially rich source of insights regarding the roles of gender inequality, tension between strong family ties and rapidly changing attitudes and lifestyles, and competition to succeed in an increasingly unequal society. For those interested in an engaging and wide-ranging crash course on these issues, Korean Families Yesterday and Today is the place to start. This book, edited by Hyunjoon Park and Hyeyoung Woo, brings together a who’s-who team of Korea experts to examine patterns of marriage, fertility, investment in children, intergenerational relationships and influences, gender relationships and attitudes, and more in an effort to both understand the social, economic, and political forces underlying dramatic family change and speculate about the implications of these changes and the future of the family landscape in Korea. An underlying theme tying the diverse chapters together is a focus on social and economic inequality, with attention to how parental resources shape children’s well-being, how socioeconomic status is associated with family behavior, and how differences in family behavior can reinforce inequalities both within and across generations. Each chapter can be read as a stand-alone paper, but the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts and provides important Korea-specific insights into broader discussions of 'diverging destinies' of children and families in low fertility countries. Other unifying themes are the careful attention to distinctive social, historical, and policy features of the Korean context and commitment to analytical rigor. While this a book written by serious academics for a primarily academic audience, it also tells a straightforward and engaging story about dramatic social change that should be of great interest to a broad audience."
—James M. Raymo, Princeton University

- James M. Raymo