Family patterns, attitudes and behaviour in relation to the upbringing of children in South Korea : the social construction of child abuse
This study explores the ways in which the Western concept of child abuse is understood by parents and professionals in Korea and how it is applied to Korean society. In order to address this, attention will be focused on parents' and relevant professionals' attitudes and perceptions in relation to child rearing, along with their responses to the problem of child abuse. Qualitative methodologies were used; semi-structured in-depth interviews with 50 participants. The findings suggest that Korean society may be operating on assumptions about child rearing and family life which differ markedly from those in the West. In particular many Korean parents and some of the relevant professionals did not define or understand `child abuse' as their equivalents in the West. Power relationships and familial collectivism seemed to be interwined in creating situations which Western commentators would see as abusive to children. There was recognition that maltreatment existed and needed to be policed but this had not been internalised by all strata of society. Therefore, there was a deep uncertainty and ambivalence towards the concept of child abuse and good child rearing and its implication for child development. Notably, there was a sense of ambivalence about the appropriateness of using physical chastisement. In spite of the majority saying that it was not right, it was still viewed as a permissible or even necessary form of discipline. This suggests that both parents and professionals face considerable confusion and doubt as to whether certain parenting behaviour is abusive. This study concludes that there is a need for a meaningful national consensus as to the best ways of translating legislation into reality. The acceptance of a degree of intervention in family life by the state, programmes of education about child development and what children need to develop healthily, raising awareness of how children are harmed, and the legitimacy of corporal punishment should be addressed through national debate. The main aim has to be to promote the safety and welfare of children. The first essential is to put consideration of the needs and rights of children at the centre of policy and the development of policy and practice should be shaped by this.