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High-income earners less obligated to support parents

High-income earners with post-secondary education degrees in South Korea feel less obligated to support their parents, a study conducted by Yonsei University found.

According to the study, which surveyed some 1,000 Koreans aged 20 or older nationwide, except on Jejudo Island, those who made more than 3 million won ($2,929) a month felt less responsible to provide for their parents than those with smaller monthly incomes.

Each participant was asked a total of six questions. The questions included: Do you think married couples should live close to their parents? When one’s parent is ill, do you think it’s the child’s responsibility to take care of her or him? Do you think one should financially support one’s parents? Do you think those who live away from their parents should call them at least once a week? Do you think one should feel responsible for one’s parents’ well-being?

Those who have university degrees also felt less obligated to take care of their parents than those who never pursued post-secondary education.

Meanwhile, those who live with spouses were less interested in supporting their parents than those who are either divorced or never married. More men felt obligated than women, while those who live in rural regions felt more responsible than those who live in a city.

“There have been two theories about the way high-income earners feel about their parents,” wrote professor Kim Young-beom, who organized the research project for Yonsei University’s Institute for Poverty Alleviation and International Development.

“One is that they don’t feel obligated to support their parents as they learned nontraditional values and norms while receiving (modern) education. The other theory is that they feel obligated to provide for their parents as they received more support from their mothers and fathers than others. Our research findings agree with the former.”

The scholar also argued that his research findings reflect the country’s uneven regional development and inequalities.

“Those who live in the city had access to a lot of new information and quality education,” he wrote. “But those who lived in small towns, including farming and fishing villages, were relatively isolated from outside influences, including benefits from the country’s rapid industrialization and economic development. Small towns created an environment where people didn’t have to rebel against their parents’ values, whereas cities did the opposite.”

By Claire Lee (