Even as its culture remains in many ways rooted in the religious, ethical and familial traditions of its past, South Korea has experienced a wide number of changes over the past generation allowing new opportunities for women and members of the younger generations to gain a measure of equality in their own society and a greater degree of individual expression. This paper looks at some of ways in which social and cultural values and practices have changed over the past generation in South Korea and how these are reflected in behaviors and beliefs among South Koreans today.
Most Americans probably still derive most of their knowledge about Korea only from the war (1950-53) or because of the communist NorthÆs nuclear potential and noisy aggressiveness, but of course this ancient country is much more than that. Koreans have a fierce sense of identity and have remained a distinct people for centuries, despite domination by China, Japan, and others and often horrible acts against the Koreans û illustrated in the terrible image of a 100,000 pickled Korean noses the 16th-century Japanese warriors took to their country to certify their body counts (Hur, 1992, p. 37).
South Korea has recently been propelled into the forefront of economic growth by the late South Korean president Park Chung-hee, although he also headed a country that was rife with pervasive bribery and corruption in the Korean business, education, medical, and legal systems.
Despite this, the rise of South Korea is one of the most unexpected and inspirational developments of the latter part of our century. A few decades ago, Koreans were an impoverished, agricultural people. In one generation they came out of the fields and into Silicon Valley. In 1997, this powerhouse of a nation reeled and almost collapsed as a result of a weak financial system and heavily indebted conglomerates. The world is now watching to see whether the Koreans will be able to reform and continue...