The Korean name for grandfather is haraboji. This term is transliterated since the Korean language uses a different alphabet from English. As a result, it is spelled in several different ways, including harabeoji, halaboji or halabeoji.
In Korea, as in many Asian countries, names specify whether a relative is maternal or paternal. The prefix oe is added to a grandparent's name to indicate the mother's side of the family.
Thus a paternal grandfather is simply haraboji, whereas a maternal grandfather is oe haraboji.
Koreans at Home and in the United States
Korea is actually two very different countries, although they have similar cultures and many years of shared history. What we know about Korea today comes mostly from South Korea since North Korea, also known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, is not open to outsiders.
South Korea is also known as the Republic of Korea, or ROK. It is a democratic country with three branches of government like the three branches of the U.S. government.
Modern-day Korea contains many people who profess no religion. Believers are about half Buddhist and half Christian. Korean-Americans are heavily Christian.
The United States has the second largest Korean population living outside their homeland. Korean-Americans are less than one percent of the population, but they are widely dispersed through the States and are known as energetic entrepreneurs.
Korean Family Culture
Korean family culture is based on the teachings of Confucius.
Many modern-day Koreans and Korean-Americans do not adhere strictly to traditional beliefs and practices, but the influence of the old ways can still be discerned.
Grandfathers are very important in traditional Korean family culture. In this culture, the eldest male of a family possesses the greatest authority. Family members are expected to conform to his orders and even to his wishes. Younger family members especially are expected to obey without question. Patriarchs are expected to rule their families wisely. If they are unreasonable and their family members rebel against their edicts, the patriarchs lose face.
Adult children have many obligations where their parents are concerned. The oldest son has the greatest role, and traditionally shares a household with his parents. It's not unusual for a dozen or so family members to share a single dwelling. Multi-generational living is the standard rather than the deviation.
Marriage is a serious matter that not only unites two individuals but also brings two families together. Traditionally, the main purpose of marriage is to produce a male heir to continue the family line.
Respect for one's ancestors is also an important value in Korean life.
Ancestors are honored with special ceremonies on specific dates. Koreans are meticulous about maintaining family records and are usually able to trace their ancestry back for many generations.
Respect for one's elders is also reflected in the Korean language, which contains a system of honorifics for recognizing a person's status. It is the custom to use a honorific when addressing any person who is ten years older than oneself. If one is unsure of another's age, one might ask in an indirect way, in order to know how to address and treat that person. There are also elaborate customs that govern social interactions, such as order of speaking and seating arrangements at celebrations.
In a culture that places so much important on family patriarchs, one might expect that the grandfather would be considered a fount of wisdom.
But heaven forbid that this knowledge be expressed in a straightforward fashion! Instead, Korean grandfathers might couch their wisdom in proverbs such as these.
- Don't spread ashes on cooked rice. Don't spoil someone else's enjoyment.
- Even monkeys fall from trees. Even experts can make mistakes.
- A dragon rises up from the stream. A great man can come from lowly circumstances.
- It doesn't matter which road you take to Seoul. There are many ways to reach one goal.
- If there are a lot of ferrymen, the boat will go to the mountain. Things go awry when there are too many people in charge.
- Clothes become wings. Being well-dressed can take you places.
- If you eat a pheasant, you also eat the egg. Don't give up long-term gain for short-term pleasure.
- If going words are beautiful, coming words will be beautiful. If you speak kindly of people who are leaving you, you will hear kind words when they return.