The ancestor worship is often held by the senior lineage in the family. It shows there is a hierarchical relationship in the family. While we are preparing food for ancestor worship, we are not allowed to eat any food for ceremony before doing the actual ancestor worship. It is because we believe that during ancestor worship, our ancestors come down from the world of the dead to eat what we prepared for them. After the ceremony we eat the food that we prepared and we believe that our ancestors have blessed the food.
There are strict rules about the ceremony such as what kind of food we need to prepare, where to place the food on the table, how many times we need to bow, and what to wear but it is all changing nowadays. During the ceremony, the atmosphere must be holy and peaceful. The interesting thing is the ceremony is lead by men and during the ceremony, women are not allowed to join in. This is explained by two reasons, one is Korea is a man centered society, with men controlling everything. Women in Korea have been treated as useless, unimportant and men believe women bring bad luck. Also it is a case of a notion of preferring a son to a daughter.
Another one is, Koreans usually think in a family women are not blood members, and they are from another family. When a woman gets married with a man she does not follow her husbands surname, it is from Confucianism. Kin relatives can not get married to each other; if a couple have got the same surname then they originally came from same ancestor. As a mother originally comes from other kin group she is not a blood member. It shows how strong kin relationship is in Korea. In my opinion, as I have had ancestor worship ceremonies every year, we learn how to respect our ancestor and our obligations for them.
Even though my ancestors are not with us, I feel the ancestors who I have not met in my life are family members and I think most of Korean people feel the same. Kinship has an effect on economic life. Hendry, J. (1999) suggested that in Britain, kin relations are isolated from rest of social, economic and political life. In western culture, kinship is supposed to not be involved in any circumstances outside of the world called ‘Family’. This is very different to Korean culture. Kin relationship is essential for Korean people to live in a society. ‘Kinship appears as a huge field of social and mental realities stretching between two poles.
One is highly abstract: it concerns kinship terminologies and the marriage principles or rules they implicitly contain or that are associated with them. The other is highly concrete: it concerns individuals and their bodies, bodies marked by the position of the individual in kinship relations. Deeply embedded in them are the representations that legitimize these relations through an intimacy of blood, bone, flesh, and soul. Between these two poles lie all the economic, political, and symbolic stakes involved from the outset in the interplay of kinship relations or, conversely, that make use of them.
‘ (Godelier, 1998: 387). Traditionally, Korean family structure is extended-family and the male head of the family controls property, usually in the form of land. As farming is a primary industry, if a father has got land for farming, after the father’s death it naturally goes to his sons or occasionally daughters. The Korean society use to be a hierarchical society. If a father is upper class then his children will be upper class, if a father is lower class then his children will be lower class. There was no way to change class and wealth was measured by the social division but sometimes wealth could be measure by land.
Since a long time ago, parent’s economic situations have an effect on their offspring. With the development of modern industry and services, the traditional family structure has been changing to nuclear family structure and an increasing number of urban families are opting to live apart from their parents however, each adult generation and nuclear family unit has become more or less economically independent. But yet again, there are still inheritances from parents. There is a Korean proverb which says ‘if someone is elected as the president of South Korea, then his next three generations will be well off’.
This means that if someone has got power and money, then it will have an affect on all his relatives. It shows how kin relationships have an effect on their social lives. There is one good example, the world famous Korean company ‘Hyundai’ is the biggest and most powerful company in Korea. General trading company Hyundai Corporation operated through six main division; shipping and industrial plants; machinery; steel; chemicals and materials; information and telecommunications; and investments. Interestingly, top place managers of these companies are all relatives of the Hyundai company founder.
Some people say that it is not fair that they are treated like a royal family in modern society. A modern society is supposed to be a competent society where everyone has the same opportunities. It is changing now but unfortunately it’s a traditional Korean custom to hand over their inheritance and it is difficult to change. To sum up, Hendry, J. (1999) says that in different societies, people have ideas about how to classify their relatives, and how people become related in the first place. As I mentioned in this essay, Koreans have got strong Kin relationships and kin groups defined by their clan.
People who have got the same surname as clan members show strong relationships with each other and it has affects on some aspect of daily life. People think their priority is family more than anything. Consequently these strong relationships interfere with economic life. Korean family ancestor worship teaches respect and obligation for their ancestor and it goes on and on to each next generation. Moreover though, ancestor worship helps relatives get along together and tightens up relationships.
Bibliography Godelier, M.(1998) Transformations of kinship, Washington ; London, p. 386-413. Haviland, W. (2002) Cultural Anthropology, UAS, Tenth edition. Brandt, V. S. R (1971) A Korean village between farm and sea, Harvard University press. Parkin, R (1997) Kinship; an introduction to the basic concepts, Oxford. Kendall, L (1996) Getting married in Korea; of gender, morality, and modernity, USA Hendry, J (1999) an introduction to social anthropology; other people’s worlds, New York Introduction to social anthropology 04075618.