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Patriarchy, or well-deserved Respect for Men? 

A Word from Korea 


The following is an introduction to a message by Dr. Mark Patton, who is presently working in Korea and is obviously witnessing something that we have not seen for almost two generations in North-America, whole-sale respect for fathers by all members of a society -- including and foremost the government.  The introduction is a portion of a letter I wrote to my oldest daughter.

Mark Patton's message is appended.

Hello Sue,

Here now is something different, a belated Father's Day item.  You may want to print it out to give to Kelly.  It is odd that the forwarded article arrived at this time.  Just at the end of last month, I wrote an article about the use of men throughout history as beasts of burden. In that article, I used my impressions I gained while I worked in Korea in '61 - '62, where men were the carriers of the loads, the beasts of burden on whose backs the modern Korean economy was erected.  Every brick, every material good, all that needed transportation, all at one time or another and to varying extents carried on the backs of men -- not women!

I made the observation that there appears to be a correlation between the thriving of societies and the extent to which the men in societies carry their load (but also the degree of recognition of the importance of men for that).

The sexes are different, but we should respect those differences and build on them.  It is no more possible for the average women to be physically as strong as the average man than it is for any man to become pregnant.  There are many more differences between the sexes.  We can't possibly eradicate them all.  Most are outcomes of biological constraints.  To try to eradicate them or even perhaps to blame one or the other sex for possessing them is like struggling against the forces of nature.  It is far smarter to use nature to our advantage and to exploit sex differences than to make futile, illogical, and absurd attempts to eliminate them.

As Lorne Gunter pointed out in a recent article in The Edmonton Journal, in a family that is headed by two heterosexual parents, there is a larger and more comprehensive set of skills.  That is an enormous asset, because in a wide range of problems facing a family, more things will get done.  What one person can't do, the other will be able to look after.  What either one can't do by himself, both together will be far more likely to be able to get done.

Your girls are fortunate to have such caring parents that cooperate so well.   I see that your girls have respect for their dad.  That is good and as it should be.  I love you all for it.

--Dad  

PS.  Consider that Korea has virtually no natural resources.  It must rely on labour for its exports, in trade for the goods it imports.  The labour exports were to varying degrees in the past comprised of physical export of labourers to various countries in the world (e.g.: much of the construction in Saudi Arabia was done by Korean labourers), as well as of the export of value-added goods (e.g. importing iron ore, fuel and plastic feedstocks, and exporting ships and cars;  importing textile fibres and exporting garments).

For Korea, in international commerce, labour is the basic commodity of trade with which it pays for its transactions.  It has proven to be a good receipe for development, hasn't it?  It forced  Koreans to think in terms of developing their industriousness, which requires functioning and productive families.  For Canadians, the emphasis was on developing, exploiting and exporting Canadas' natural resources -- leaving people free to fritter away their potentials in the vilification of men, ostensibly in pursuit of the establishment of equal rights.  It explains to some extent why Korean dads are so much respected, after all, they *are* Korea's resource.  Canadian dads are considered by many to be nothing more than a nuisance that is better removed from the lives of Canadian families -- what idiocy for any government to pursue such an objective with a passion, after all, aren't our dads an important national resource too?

The ironic thing about such Canadian social politics is that almost exclusively it is only men who mine the ores, drill for oil, till the soil for the crops, fell the lumber that is turned into plywood by the Japanese and into paper for the world.  Even Hitler and Stalin knew better!  They glorified the miners, farmers, soldiers, and steel workers, on whose backs their countries' economies rested.

Isn't it time that we open our eyes?

 
Subject            A word from Korea
Date:               Fri, 26 Jun 1998 15:31:12 +0900
From:              "Mark E. Patton" <mepatton@kmucc.keimyung.ac.kr>
Organization:   Keimyung University

Greetings to all from a new member of MENTION. My name is Mark Patton, and I am a visiting professor in the Department of Tourism Management at Keimyung University in South Korea. I've been a lurker on the list for just over a week now and am impressed with the wealth of information presented, the personal stories shared, and the feeling that I'm not the only one left with a bit of common sense.

I'd like to share some anecdotal observations from Korea.

As most of you probably know, Korea is laboring under a currency crisis and the economy has taken heavy blows due to the bankruptcies of several large and corrupt companies, the fall of the won against other currencies, and the corresponding skyrocketing costs of fuel, paper, and other imported necessities. Companies are restructuring under threat of closure and the traditionally miniscule unemployment rate has risen to around 7% (a historical high for Korea) and two and a half million more are expected to join the ranks of the unemployed by the end of 1998.

In Korean society, as in most of Asia, men are still the primary breadwinners for the family. Most of my students come from traditional families where Dad works, Mom (if the kids are all out of high school) may have a part time job but probably doesn't (and women with children under college age still don't often work full-time here because their focus is on getting the kids into the best school possible) and the kids are full-time students. Without exception, when talking of the "IMF era" as this recession is called, the students comment on how hard things are for their fathers. They have cancelled plans to travel overseas, because of concern for their dad. They're looking for part-time work, as scarce as it is, because they want to help out dad.

And it's not just at home that concern for dad is shown in Korea. The Public Information Ministry does short spots that are played before the previews in movie theatres. The IMF crisis, and steps necessary to weather the crisis, has been a popular topic of these "propaganda spots" as I like to call them. One focuses on a young man, a playboy-type who goes to school, has his own apartment, car, all on his parent's ticket, who fails the selection exam at a large company to which he has applied for a job. The day after this happens, he learns that his father has been turned down for a loan to save his small business. The young man then decides to sell his car, and move back in with his parents, and go to work for his dad while studying for the next round of selection exams. All to help dad.

In addition, on the drive to Seoul earlier this week with my students, I took
note of the billboards sponsored both by the government and by major companies like Hyundai and Daewoo and Samsung that have messages like "Hang In There, Dad" and "Take Care of Your Health, We Need You, Dad," and "Drive Carefully, Dad, We're Waiting for You at Home."

It may not be much, but I just wanted to share that there ARE still places on this earth that feminism hasn't soiled, and where Dad is still important, still valued, and where people and society CARE about the burdens Dad shoulders. For all of us.

---Mark Patton, in Taegu, South Korea


Mark E. Patton                                  +8253-620-2384 (voice/fax)
Visiting Professor                              mepatton@kmucc.keimyung.ac.kr
Department of Tourism Management
Keimyung University
2139 Daemyung 7 Dong Nam-Gu
Taegu 705-701 South Korea

"Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy."
                     -- Ayn Rand, "The Fountainhead"

Thanks to Mark Patton for giving permission to post this item. --WHS