The Korean hierarchy and how it affects youWhen coming to Korea it is important to remember your role and your place in the society. Because Korea like in a lot of places in Asia and even in the west although less pronounced, there is a societal hierarchy that you don’t have a choice but to adhere to.
There is a level of respect that’s given to individuals based on this hierarchy. You can see it everywhere in Korea. For some of us Westerners that have the mentality of equality among all it is especially important to keep this in mind. Although I am aware of this hierarchy, it is not clearly defined in my head. That is why I asked my students to explain to me just how it is setup. And here is what they told me.
Occupation plays a big role in how the society deals with you. And frankly speaking you are defined by what you do. However age has a lot to do with it too.
At the top of the hierarchy are:
- Judges, Lawyers & Doctors
- Professors, Teachers
- Business Owners & CEOs
- Police officers & Firefighters
- Office workers
- Everyone else Least favorable occupations according to the students. They were a bit harsh here.
- Taxi Drivers
- Cleaners i.e garbage collectors, dish washers etc
- The Dirt
ConclusionYour role in the society depends heavily on what you do. Since Korea is a society that values education very much what you do is tied with how smart you are. And how smart you are defines who you are. Therefore you only get the respect that your intelligence permits.
Let’s not forget however that regardless of what you do it seems that the old people in Korea surpass the hierarchical system and are in a category of their own. Thus the older you are the more pull you have in the society.