Family Life


In accordance with the ethical teaching handed down from our ancestors, in Korea special emphasis is placed on filial piety. This includes supporting one's parents with devotion, nursing one's sick parents with care, and holding sacrificial rituals in memory of deceased parents. These wholesome manners and customs are epitomized in the self-sacrificing behaviour of the heroine of the Korean classical novel The Tale of Simchong and in the tradition of women severing one of their fingers to transfuse their blood to their ailing husbands or parents.

Great care is shown when choosing a wife for one's son, as a dutiful daughter-in-law is supposed to pay great attention to the well-being of her parents-in-law, thus ensuring harmony within the family.

The custom of the son, particularly the eldest son, supporting his parents is still prevalent in Korea.

In olden times if one had no son, one adopted a child with the purpose of ensuring that memorial services for one's ancestors were held without interruption and the family line was carried on, as well as of having someone to whom to hand over one's property and by whom to be supported in one's old age.

The custom of adopting a son or daughter in Korea has undergone a radical change. It has become a social trend that young people of the rising generation bring up orphans as their own children and support childless old folks as their parents. It is now no rare occurrence that girls voluntarily marry disabled soldiers and take care of them, dedicating the springtime of their lives to them. These new relations of upbringing and support are attributable to Comrade Kim Jong Il, who has established new human relations of single-hearted unity by taking good care of the old generation of revolutionaries and by doing his best to bring up the bereaved children of fallen comrades as successors to the revolution.

When a baby is born, a name is given to it. It is the custom with the Koreans that the surname, which is placed first, follows the bloodline of the father. So daughters, to say nothing of sons, always keep the surnames of their fathers even after marriage. The surname is usually of one syllable while the given name usually consists of two syllables. The syllables of the name have definite meanings. One of the two syllables of the given name is common to, and indicates, the same generation of close relatives to which the owner of the name belongs. The common syllable of the name is applied up to first cousins, making it possible to tell quickly which generation kinfolk belong to.

The most important birthday celebration is the one that children arrange for the 60th birthdays of their parents. In the past, a man, who lived to be 60, was considered to have lived long. Therefore his children would hold a big banquet on his 60th birthday, wishing him an even longer life in good health. On that day they would present newly made garments to him and set a ceremonial feast table for him.

The table was also called a table for feasting the eyes on, so it was set with a greater variety of dishes and was more spectacular than a wedding table. The intensity of filial piety of the children was said to have been estimated by the number of dishes and the height of the food piled up on the table. After setting the table, the children, relatives and friends would each present a cup of wine to the guest of honour and make a deep bow to him or her.

The celebration of one's 60th birthday is one of the good manners and customs of the Korean people, who respect their parents and take good care of them.

Comrade Kim Jong Il sees to it that 60th birthday spreads are arranged in the name of the country for the people who have devotedly worked for the country and the people, as a reward for their meritorious service. He also ensures that 70th and 80th birthday spreads are sent to people who have worked until they reached 70 or 80 years of age.

It is a duty based on the Korean sense of obligation and ethics to hold memorial services for the dead and pray for their souls. The memorial service held on the first anniversary of a person's death is called sosang. The memorial service held on the second anniversary of a person's death is called taesang or samnyonje (memorial service in the third year, because it is held in the third year after the death). Besides sosang and taesang, the memorial service which is held on the day of the ancestor's death every year is called kije. Kije is held at the dawn of that day.

On folk festival days, people hold memorial services to pray for the repose of the souls of their ancestors. Memorial services on folk festival days are distinct from other memorial services in that sacrificial altars are laden with special food eaten only on that day. To cite a few examples, people offer rice-cake soup on New Year's Day and rice cakes steamed on a layer of pine needles on the Harvest Moon Day. The memorial service is usually held in the house of the eldest son or the eldest grandson in charge of the memorial service. So on New Year's Day and on the Harvest Moon Day all the relatives gather in the house of the eldest son.

Nowadays in Korea, people hold funeral and memorial services in a simple and modest manner, remembering the deceased with reverence.

People see on their TV screens Comrade Kim Jong Il bowing respectfully to Comrade Kim Il Sung, the eternal President of the Republic, lying in state in the Kumsusan Memorial Palace at dawn on the Day of the Sun (President Kim Il Sung's birthday, April 15.), July 8 (the day of the President's death.), and on New Year's Day. Republic Founding Day, Harvest Moon Day and other national holidays every year. They also watch the endless waves of people paying homage at the President's bronze statue on Mansu Hill, the Revolutionary Martyrs Cemetery, the Patriotic Martyrs Cemetery in Pyongyang and the patriotic martyrs' tombs in the provinces. This is the modem form of the good manners and customs inherited from our ancestors, which have been carried over and developed to a higher level of significance in our era.

The etiquette of salutation differs from country to country. In Korea it is a long-established custom for people to bow to each other, in stead of shaking hands, when they meet.

Juniors make a deep bow to their parents and other elders among the members of the family and relatives. When one makes a deep bow, one falls on one's knees, and the hands touch the ground. So deep bows are usually made indoors.

Outdoors, people usually bow in a standing position. The extent of the bending of the upper part of the body shows the relation of the junior to the senior. The deeper the bow, the more respectful it is. When Korean people meet others who are their equals in age, they only make slight bows to each other and exchange words of greeting. It is regarded as good manners and an age-old custom in Korea to offer hospitality to guests. From olden times Korea has been known as an "eastern country of great courtesy". Everyone visiting Korea will feel kindness and warm hospitality.

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