Friday, June 13, 2003

Sugar Mommas... Korea Needs More Sugar Mommas

Going through Fortune Online I came across an older article on Trophy Husbands. It was about the husbands of very successful corporate executives who decided to take time off their career, retire early, or work part-time so their wives could continue the success they created within their careers. This is probably an old topic for some, as with me, but while being in Korea there has been some cultural twists.

Since college, I believed I would not have a problem being a "mr. mom" for a few years if my future wife wanted to focus on her career or studies for a period of time. Though I have my own ambitions and goals, I knew there would have to be some trade-offs or compromises for an equal partnership to succeed. I still believe this, but have run into more counter opinions while in Korea than in the U.S.

It's amusing since some of native Korean males I run into sometimes even have difficulties in accepting the first stage of a woman even working at all. Some are still very traditional and believe a woman's only role is bearing children and raising them "properly". These types can get very uncomfortable and almost combative when they meet women that are professionally or financially more accomplished than themselves. The threatening of their values and household is right before them and it can create an emotional stir within their bowels.

I don't disagree with this approach as long as the woman has her personal choice in the matter. Some of my close women friends already planned to work for a few years, take a few years off to raise the kids, and than go back to work when we were in college. After a few years of our graduation, sometimes they just decided not to go back while they were raising their kids, but it was their choice.

Then you have the practical matter which many modern couples have accepted that you need a two-income household. So the Korean husband willing or not has accepted this situation. But I have have yet to encounter a native Korean male to even consider the situation of not being the primary breadwinner within a household. This intense patriarchal pride is evident in many men.

I would say the typical Korean male is insecure and uses many social structures as a crutch (asking for some hate email right here). Whether the Confucian hierarchy to be one-up on someone based on age or using gender to gain an edge, the insecurity seems so thick and tangible to me during my three years here. In this society, women are objectified, categorized, and minimized to such a degree that the average woman, even college-educated, do not have stronger ambitions than to get married to a "good family" and husband.

This is where Korea hurts itself as a nation and developing economy. There can be so many more ambitious and impactful women within this society if the short-sighted barriers and stigmas are lifted. If women with ambition aren't scorned by the weak and young girls open to new avenues of success, the increased competition within the workforce and diversity would greatly benefit this society as a whole.