• Families Typically Highly Value Top School Performance
  • “Face Saving” is Vital
  • Stress Among Teenagers is Highest Reported in World

South Korea is well-known for its emphasis on education, with its students ranking among the highest in international education tests. “This obsession with education helps put South Korea consistently atop the global school rankings. In last year’s national rankings of students’ math and science scores by the Organization for Economic and Cooperation and Development (OECD), South Korea came in second place worldwide, after Singapore. The organization also found that ‘over 70% of high school graduates go to four-year universities.’” (Diamond, 2016)

Face-Saving is traditionally very important in Korean Society. ) A student must work hard to save the family from the shame of poor grades. A parent does not show pleasure in the child’s good report card, for fear of spoiling their child. “Behind the ostensible intent of face-saving tactics lies the essence of a self-effacing culture: the intrinsic intent of face-saving strategies is to protect others from the consequences of loss-of-face.” (Kim, 1993) In practical terms, this may mean that a Korean student is more likely to take a major based on parental input, and work hard to succeed in that path, even if a different major might be a better fit.

A difficult aspect of this emphasis on education, combined with the need to save face, is that stress and suicide rates are elevated in South Korea. “[F]ailure to conform to social requirements or ethical codes and failure to meet the family’s expectations are considered a loss-of-face which in turn results in suicide.” (Kim, 1993) [It should be noted that the suicide rates of Koreans living in the U.S. is significantly lower than the rate for Koreans living in Korea. (Kung, et.al., 2018)]

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