Haja Center (English&Japanese Blog)

“Need to Make Society Where ‘an Invisible Heart’ Functions!”

  ”Need to Make Society Where ‘an Invisible Heart’ Functions!”

(Translated by)  Amy Kyoungmi Yoo

CHO, (Han) Hae-Joang, the professor of the Department of Cultural Anthropology of Yonsei University, highlighted that breakup of nuclear family and increase of single-person households are the problems that citizens who want to live together should resolve together by creating a new culture of public good.

 It means that people should create a system where an invisible heart, not an invisible hand that Adam Smith, a creator of classical economics, referred, functions to make society where people can depend on and help each other.

 She has insisted that our society should transit to relationship-and-caring-centered society from society focusing on external and quantitative growth through articles such as the one titled ‘To a Caring Society from a Country under Construction.’

photo by Big Issue Japan, all rights reserved.

  The followings are the interview with the professor Cho (Han) Hae-Joang.

 – The number of one and two person households has increased and nuclear family has broken up. What are the reasons?

 ▲Basically, employment issue is related. Nuclear family can exist when one person (bread winner) can support the rest 2 or 3 family members. It is possible under the economic system where bread winners have stable life-long jobs and couples can enjoy their retirement after raising their children.

However, currently, it is difficult so both parents should work and the number of those who cannot sustain basic livelihoods such as the poor, the unemployed, freelancers, part-time workers, and the jobless has greatly increased.

Now, we live in a low-growth society. Society grows without employment. Nuclear families cannot exist under the policies that employment is never considered.

– Is it the reason for existence of the welfare system?

▲ The problem is that the welfare system is still based on the nuclear family system. The welfare system exists under the assumption that one of family members has a job.

– Are there any reasons for breakup of nuclear family except for an economic reason?

▲ Of course, there are. The reasons are cultural ones such as sense of identity that ‘I am the hero of my life’ and tendency to be too much interested in consumption and investment with an opinion that ‘money can make everything possible.’ In the past, relatives, neighbors, and friends help each other and live under a mutually beneficial relationship but these days, people don’t know how to build such relationships.

Education just for entering university is also a problem. People have not shaped their own lives or resolved problems by themselves but just have studied so they are socially inept. Those who entered university in 1980s and before owed friends sometimes but people don’t do now. They cannot ask for help and help others.

The current education system is just for educating a small number of persons to become full time workers. However, they cannot maintain their jobs for a long period of time. Indeed, education should be done for people to have abilities to shape their own lives to support themselves.   

Also, the number of persons who receive a high annual income don’t or cannot get married because their working hours are so long and their works are so tough. Mostly, professional female workers earning a high annual income do not get married but the number of such male workers also has increased. If they don’t have enough time to be with their family members, marriage might not be a desirable option for them.

– Then, what shall we do?

▲ We shall build a society where people who love and help each other can live together. That doesn’t have to be a family.

So far, we have highlighted ‘invisible hand’, which means distribution of money, but it is ‘invisible heart’ that has let us survive. Now we need to find out a framework to operate it.

The old format of a family is going to break down and thus the important thing is how to build its replacement, ‘caring community’, where its members take care of each other.

– Do you mean caring society?

▲Communal child-care started already under various titles such as social enterprises, associations and sarangbang. Caring and child-care should be socialized. Building a society where women can raise their children free of worry is more important than building one where they can work free of worry. It is not desirable that ‘experts’ bring up children in facilities as in the old construction society. It should take the form of communal labor that is not marketized.

In other words, mothers who have to work shall go to work, and mothers who do not shall raise their own kids as well as working mothers’ kids. It only requires formation of regional communities and small rooms.

Then, we need help from grandmothers who have sufficient experiences of raising kids, child-care experts and graduates of caring. What the nation needs to do here is to provide mothers who take care of children with regular salaries and rooms. I mean a change of the flow of financial support.

– It doesn’t seem feasible immediately in our society.

▲Since mothers have received competitive education, they are accustomed to it and thus it is not easy to change that. We do not mean an across-the-board change. We shall start from where conditions are ready to bring up kids together, parents are ready and necessary infrastructure is set.

During the socialization of labor of caring, we should not consider it as a simple service or try to institutionalize it. Caring requires communication and interaction and raising children is different from manufacturing goods.

– What is going to happen to families?

▲Differentiation of families shall continue. A family cannot live together if the members cannot provide for each other. It doesn’t have to be a family. It is sufficient if close people help each other, have meals together and make a living with happiness

Women who have been providing labor of caring are now being forced out to work. Under these circumstances, women’s hands are tied. In order to revive invisible heart and invigorate the area of caring, men’s participation is essential.

The worst scenario is a ‘disconnected society’ where everyone forms one-man household and shut him/herself up in own room, which appears in Japan.

Family breakdown is not a problem of each individual or family. It is a structural problem. Therefore, all citizens who want to live together in the community shall put efforts together to resolve the problem by building a strong communityship.

We shall forget about ‘money talks’ and instead, shall try to build a relationship in which people help each other and enjoy lives free of worry of money. I believe since humans are social beings, if they have their own time, they will do things that make the society better.

 <Yonhap news> 2012. 12. 3


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