Violation of Tradition

June 4, 2008
By Sul Gi Han, New Hope, PA

Among Korean traditions, there is a tradition that is very different from any of those in America. Compared to Koreans, Americans are very individualistic and independent, but in my country, it is believed that interference is necessary in order for people to improve. Whether the advice is accepted or not depends upon who is giving it.

There are three type of advice that people might get. It might not be necessary to follow the advice of a young person, because he or she is young, and therefore might not give sound advice. Second, it might be necessary to listen to the advice from a person of the same age, but it might be avoidable. However, it is always necessary to heed the advice of one’s elders. If one’s elders want an action, it is a custom of younger person’s duty to move fast to finish that action. It is against the rules and behaviors if a person does not follow the dictates of one’s elders.
These days, Koreans are becoming more westernized, so some people have begun to ignore these traditional rules. These rules have long, been considered unbreakable, and even though they may seem rigid, sometimes there is rules are necessary.

My sister is someone who has been already quite “westernized.” Because it was my parent’s wish, my siblings and I were sent to America to be educated in the American way. I learned how to express myself and think with on open mind. I have not had any problem keeping my Korean tradition separate from my American values. I intend to maintain my Korean traditions and values even though I have been influenced by American culture, and so, my sister and I ran into problems when she started to be rude to me.

During the winter break, I went back to Egypt to see my sister who is in an American school. She is only a 7th grader and is in an ESL advanced class. She speaks pretty well and is comfortable and socializes with American people. I had no concern until. I saw her at home; she seemed to have forgotten the Korean ways. She was lazy. She did not finish her work but only hung out with her friends, neglecting her Korean history and math. My mother was mad at her, but she would not scold my sister in the Korean way because she was afraid that my sister would be hurt. In Korea, often times parents are allowed to hit their children as punishment or mention the strict rules so that the children will not go the wrong way. Instead, I decided that I should advise her. At first, she seemed to listen to me, but after about two minutes, she started to act rude. It was her opinion that I should not interfere in her life even though I am her older sister. I was shocked. I never expected her to be so rude to me. She was accepting other cultures but not the Korean culture. So I started to scold her, and the fight burst out.

I did not mean to scream at her, but it was so inappropriate for her to talk back to an elder when they are scolding or advising. I advised her because I was worried and loved her. I should have found a nice way to say it, but it seems like she would not understand what her fault was if I was not stern. The only hope that I have is that she will not forget her heritage and traditions and behave herself even if she fails her classes or spends her time hanging around. That is the only wish I have for her.

Through this experience, I felt that people changes when they are in different environment in order to survive. Although my sister has lived in Korea since when she was born, but the fresh environment of Egypt and American education Americanized, or Westernized my sister’s mind. It is hard to keep the previous culture at the same with the developing culture, but I personally think that to have a root is important. For example, like my brother who loves Korean food but speaks English better than Korean, it would be a problem because he is still Korean yet cannot speak or enjoy the Korean culture properly. These cultural conflicts also influence people’s personalities. Like my sister, who used to give “elder” behavior to me, has changed to “American” behavior which is to equalize her position as her elders. To experience various cultures are exciting and profitable, but if people cannot keep their own culture with their own standards, it would be like a tree without roots.

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