Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

"Chaemyoun-Saving (Face Saving)" Due to Korean Job Loss: Listening to Men's Voices

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

"Chaemyoun-Saving (Face Saving)" Due to Korean Job Loss: Listening to Men's Voices

Article excerpt

Job loss is one of the most significant stressors affecting family life. Most research studies in the United States and Europe confirm that job loss is linked with a variety of symptoms of psychological distress, including feelings of uselessness, depressed mood, anxiety, guilt, self-blame, and impairment of self-esteem and self-confidence (McFadyen, 1995; Voydanoff & Majka, 1988). Social isolation through restricted contacts (Rosenblatt, 1990) and stigmatization are other consequences that have been frequently reported for the unemployed (Dooley & Catalano, 1988), as well as increased family tensions (Elder & Caspi, 1988;Yeung & Hofferth, 1988).

There is general agreement about the negative effects of job loss on individuals and families. However, there may be different psychosocial consequences of job loss across various cultures (Council of Europe, 1987), because the meaning of a job loss is specific to the context. If researchers neglect the dynamic influence of the macrosystem on individuals and families, then they may be criticized for reductionism. Hanson (1995) claimed a parallogical view that situates any event in its native context before judging it. Based on the concept of Hanson's parallogical view, it is important to clarify the particular cultural and economic environments under which the impacts of job loss are most severe.

The impetus for the current study came from the researcher's recognition of the unique economic situation in Korea. It was said that Korea occupied 121 place in the global economy in early 1997 (Park, 1998). However, the Korean economic crisis that began in the third quarter of 1997 caused the downsizing of businesses and resulted in many people experiencing job loss. It was a sudden and unexpected occurrence that disrupted the lifestyles of Korean people.

The effects of job loss became more complicated when regarding the cultural environment of Korea. The Korean family has been traditionally ruled by the Confucian philosophy that emphasizes patriarchal authority and hierarchical relations between generations and genders. Even though Korean family life is changing rapidly with modernization and the equalizing of statuses between men and women, families still believe they are supposed to follow traditional values (Hurh, 1998). Confucian patriarchal norms lead to expectations for carrying out the traditional gender roles that Parsons and Bales (1955) called the expressive role for women and the instrumental role for men: Husbands work outside the home as providers and wives stay inside as homemakers. There are even Korean words differentiating titles for husbands and wives. A husband is called "bacatyangban," which means "a person outside (of the home)," and a wife is "ansaram," which means "a person inside (of the home)." The language and the social norms show strong social expectations that a man is expected to support his family economically by doing his job (Joh, 1988). Considering this social expectation, the impact of the aversive experience of job loss on Korean men might be exacerbated by its indirect effects through the responses of other people in families and social groups. The impact of job loss stress is multiplied for Korean men in that individual responsibilities become social obligations for maintaining, not only one's own welfare, but also, the financial stability of the family.

There are a few studies about unemployed people in Korea following the massive job loss (Jang, 1998; Oh, 1998; Park, 1998). However, these studies have not reflected the "empirical reality" (Strauss & Corbin, 1990) of Korean unemployed men. Researchers have overlooked the uniqueness of cultural and economic environments and provided a limited perspective on the complex experiences of Korean unemployed men. Moreover, these studies placed emphasis on economic impacts such as financial deprivation or consuming patterns (Kim, 1998), by adhering to survey designs and standardized self-reports with a lack of personal responses to questions. …

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