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[Opinion] What Is Your Father’s Occupation?

Posted December. 24, 2004 22:35,   


This is the story of the mother of a teenage daughter. When she found out her daughter had a boyfriend, the first question she asked was, “Is he smart?” Then, voice lowered, she asked, “What does his father do for a living?” Her daughter said in disgust that it was none of her business. The middle-aged mother later said she felt so embarrassed. “When I was young I could not understand my teachers or the mothers of my friends asking, ‘What is your father’s occupation?’ But now I’m just like them…”

Nothing is a better gauge in determining one’s present and future than his or her parents’ jobs and academic records. One doctoral dissertation revealed statistics that the parents in the Gangnam area of Seoul had more than twice as many highly educated members than in other areas, and that their children were more likely to attend four-year colleges than the Seoul average (37.4 percent). There are also studies in the United States that people whose parents are in professional jobs are 20 times more likely to get those jobs themselves than the offspring of workers, even if they lack skills. It may be the genes, or it may be the environment, but nevertheless, the influence of parents cannot be ignored.

Parents can either become obstacles or stepping-stones. American president George W. Bush, heir to the “Bush Kingdom,” once used to be compared to his father, and had been regarded as the prodigal son. It is still too early to determine whether he is a successful president or not, but looking into his personal history, it seems that a complex about his father drove him to a path of discouragement-success-coming into power again. Having imperfect parents can also help one to succeed. Korean-Japanese writer Yu Miri said, “If I had been born into a happy and wealthy family, I would never have become a writer.” No matter how popular private tutoring becomes, the old adage: “It is the case of a black hen laying white eggs” is still as valid as ever. After all, it is all up to the individual.

It is an invasion of privacy to require students to state their parents’ occupation, workplace and academic background in their college application forms. It may be necessary to know a student’s personal background for educational purposes after enrollment, but knowing such information at the interview might lead to prejudice. Before they ask, “What does your father do,” they should ask themselves, “What am I doing?”

Kim Sun-duk, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com