Families are gone.
The definition of the family is “a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.” Families are supposed to live together.
However, it is common for many families to live separately. Even the ones who do live together, they are often confined to their own spaces. It is rare to see family members sitting around to watch television together. In their own spaces, each family member is likely to be using their smartphones and laptops.
The Korea Daily surveyed 100 Korean-Americans in Los Angeles to celebrate the National Family Month of May. The mission of the survey was to reflect on the concept of being a family in 2017. Conducted between May 17 and 19, the Korea Daily met with 15 teenagers, 20 people in their 20s, 26 in their 30s, 16 in 40s and 23 in their 50s at a shopping mall in Koreatown. They were asked to describe words, such as family, mom and dad.
The three most common words to describe “family” were memory, coziness and warmth. The participants in their 50s notably mentioned the words bloodline and community. In fact, 17 of the 23 participants in their 50s said the word family means “one,” “community” and “bloodline.” However, none of those words appeared among any of the teenage or 20s and 30s participants.
Middle-aged men and women also showed notable differences. While three of 11 men in their 50s said they thought of their parents and siblings when hearing the word family, the female participants said their first thoughts were spouses, children, and in-laws.
The older the participants, more worried they were able their families breaking apart.
“Today’s family is no longer a family,” said an 82-year-old man who met with the Korea Daily at Koreatown Plaza. “Everyone lives separately now. Even the ones who live together are only minding their own lives, watching TV and smartphones apart from one another.”
The concept of dining together differed greatly by age.
Across all ages, the commonality was that being a family means to live together. Only 26 percent of all participants said that families do not necessarily have to live together in one space. However, nearly 40 percent of the 61 participants in their 30s said family members do not have to live together.
“Family to me is when everyone with my bloodline, including my grandkids, sit together around one table and eat together,” said an 80-year-old man at the Madang Mall.
On the contrary, a single man in his 30s said: “When I think of the people I usually eat with, I automatically think about my co-workers first.”
A woman in her 20s added: “I actually enjoy eating alone. Family to me is essentially non-existent.”
Finally, participants were asked to describe their feelings when hearing the words “mom” or “dad.”
Of the 100 participants, 51 mentioned the words “sacrifice,” “love” and “responsibility.” However, 30 percent of the teenage participants called their parents “best friends,” marking a stark contrast in comparison to those in their 50s who primarily said “gratitude,” “apologetic” and “sacrifice.” For the elderly parents, even words such as “mom” (umma) and “dad” (appa) were not familiar with them.
“I’ve never called my father dad in my entire life,” said a 60-year-old man. “I still don’t describe him with that word even though he has passed away.”
From teenagers all the way up to the participants in their 30s said the word “father” was awkward. Those in their 40s or older said they have never called their patriarch a “dad.”
By Jaera Kim