Wednesday, March 23, 2005

State, No More the Family Writ Large

The matter of Korean women going abroad to have their children is not really new. As the article notes, figures are not kept on this but one travel agency tells us that, " 3,000 maternity trips were estimated in 2001, 5,000 in 2002, 7,000 in 2003, and peaked to nearly 10,000 last year." Like most trends in Korea, the uptake rate is quick and large. However, it should be noted that about half a million babies were born in Korea last year making the number going abroad still quite small.

The argument goes that Korea's hypercompetitive education system and military conscription are what drives women to give birth abroad. By doing so they are granting their children a foreign passport, one that presumably leads to better opportunities in life. Apart from the obvious point that a US or Australian, or other Western nation's passport does not guarantee a successful and wonderful life there is a more poignant and disturbing issue here. By giving birth overseas these parents are undermining democracy and refusing to take responsibility for the problems in their own country.

Presumably if you live in a democracy and are THAT unhappy with a government service, in this case education, then you should get involved to do something about it. But rather than demand the government clean up its act and do something about the ridiculous state of education competition in Korea, these parents shrug their shoulders as if its an inevitability that education in their country fail them and their children. Its as if they don't believe they possess the right to demand the government improve the situation. Odd coming from a country where people chop off their pinky for the right to fly the nation's flag on a rock in the ocean that nobody will see.

In the face of such apathy the chances of the government changing the education system becomes very slim. If people think the best solution to Korea's education failings is to take care of themselves and let the real problem fester for others to suffer with then it seems logical that the problem itself will remain. These parents are doing their country a disservice by failing to recognise their democratic duty and they are selfish. With that kind of attitude we may expect that when the next generation is ready to have kids the Korean education system will be in the same mess it is now without any bothering to fix it up.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui