Diverging Family Behaviors and Their Implications for Inequality in South Korea


Thursday, October 6, 2016, 4:30pm


Thomas Chan-Soo Kang Room (S050), CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA 02138

Kim Koo Forum on Korea Current Affairs

Hyunjoon Park
Korea Foundation Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania

Hyunjoon Park is Korea Foundation Associate Professor of Sociology and Education at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his Ph.D in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005. Park is interested in educational stratification and family in cross-national comparative perspective, focusing on South Korea and other East Asian societies. In recent years, he has studied consequences of rapid family changes for children’s well-being in societies which have weak public welfare systems and conservative family norms. Park has published a single-authored book, Re-Evaluating Education in Japan and Korea: De-mystifying Stereotypes (2013 Routledge) and coedited a book, Korean Education in Changing Economic and Demographic Contexts (with Kyung-Keun Kim, 2014 Spring) and a previous volume (Vol. 17) of Research in the Sociology of Education (Globalization, Changing Demographics, and Educational Challenges in East Asia with Emily Hannum and Yuko Butler, 2010). Park is the coeditor of the annual series, Research in the Sociology of Education (with Grace Kao).

Chaired by Paul Y. Chang, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Harvard University

During the last few decades, South Korea has experienced dramatic changes in major family behaviors, which are often more pronounced than corresponding trends in the West. By comparing the trends in three family behaviors – marriage, divorce, and living arrangements, at the bottom and top of socioeconomic hierarchy, this study demonstrates that rapid changes in family behaviors have not been uniform across social class. Instead, Korea has seen growing class divide in marriage and divorce, particularly due to the plummeting marriage rate and soaring divorce rate among the low educated. Meanwhile, the more educated are more likely to live with their family members than the less educated. This study concludes with implications of growing polarization of family behaviors for inequality in the next generation.

The Korea Institute acknowledges the generous support of the Kim Koo Foundation.