chapter  7
19 Pages

Migrant workers in the new eldercare mix in South Korea

BySEONG-GEE UM

Introduction Traditionally, eldercare has been provided by families in South Korea (hereafter Korea) and other East Asian countries. It is normally expected that older people will be taken care of by their adult children – usually the eldest son and his wife – who reside in the same household. The cultural tradition of fi lial piety upholds the importance of respect and provision of good care to elderly parents; it is the normative duty and obligation of adult children, especially the eldest son who succeeds in the family line (Sung 1998). At the centre of this eldercare arrangement are daughters-in-law – the actual care providers. This must be understood in the context of the patriarchal Korean family structure, in which a woman leaves the family of her father for the family of her husband upon her marriage and is responsible for caring for her parents-in-law rather than her own parents. The key role of daughters-in-law in eldercare provision distinguishes Korean family care arrangements from those in Western countries, where partners and daughters are the main family caregivers for the elderly (Sung 2003).