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Family allowance: granted to first sons, but not first daughters

Family allowance: granted to first sons, but not first daughters

Posted July. 06, 2016 08:33,   

Updated July. 06, 2016 09:04


In popular South Korean TV series “Dear My Friends,” which ended recently, featured a female owner of a noodles shop in her 60s. She bursts out her “first daughter complex” when diagnosed with advanced liver cancer. She has been always burdened by family caring tasks, of her old parents and disabled brother. When asked by her daughter why she didn’t tell her about the cancer, she snaps, “What would it make any difference?” “If I had not done all the duty, all of you would have been dead by now. I have a daughter, parents, and a brother, but they all rely on me. I don’t have anywhere to lean on myself.”

The Korean dictionary defines “first daughter” as the first among two or more daughters, but in daily conversation it also refers to the first daughter among all siblings, regardless of their sex. It was common throughout Korean history where first daughters had to sacrifice their whole life into taking care of their parents and siblings just like first sons did, although they did not receive the same special treatment as first sons did. A first daughter tends to have different relationship with her parents than her sisters even after marriage. This is why “first daughter complex” is considered one of seven complexes of Korean women.

Ms. Lee, who works at a public agency under a municipal government, filed a complaint to the National Human Rights Commission after being refused of application for family allowance to support her mother. Her workplace had a policy of granting allowance to first sons who do not live parents but only to first daughters in the same situation who had no siblings. Ms. Lee was supporting her family and a younger brother in school. The commission saw the case as "violation of equal rights" and advised the agency to revise the policy. They saw it as a clear discrimination against women based on conventional perception of sex, which puts all burden of supporting immediate ascendants to men’s shoulders.

Regarding this, the agency claimed that most of our counterparts have similar policies. Then it only means that all of the "counterparts" should correct their discriminative practice as soon as possible. The definition and types of family are rapidly transforming as society changes, but the practices do not seem to catch up with the pace. Some talk about the rise of "alpha girls" but those alpha girls are held back by these discriminative policies at work. They seem to still have a long way to struggle.