Go to contents

It Takes a Village

Posted June. 29, 2010 14:00,   


"It Takes a Village" is the title of a book written by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while she was first lady. Her work was not unusual in stressing the importance of children’s education and family, but was considered a landmark publication in the U.S. at the time. This is because her book rediscovered the tradition of the liberal elite (whose Korean counterparts are left-leaning or progressive figures in Seoul’s southern upscale district of Gangnam), who deny tradition and culture including marriage or childrearing. To ensure that children grow healthy and well, Clinton wrote that all of society definitely needs families that live under traditional ideology.

The title of her book is derived from an African proverb. Korea also underwent such an era in the past. When a young mother bore and reared a child in Africa, she inevitably faced a moment when she desperately needed help from villagers, including the lady next door, a grandma in her neighborhood, a teacher or a villager. The “childrearing village” is a concept that a network of people, civil society and the country as a whole who share values must take responsibility for children’s education.

Korea has its own proverb that stresses the importance of children’s education: one keeps his or her habits from age three through 80. Culture commentator Lee Eo-ryeong said, “This proverb contains our ancestors’ recognition of the capacity to recognize and experience that accumulates in a three-year-old child.” The Neuroscience Research Institute at Gachon University of Medicine and Science in Incheon said visual screening of a 39-month-old child showed that its brain had no major differences from an adult’s in structural completeness and neural networks.

The National Museum of Korea held Monday the opening ceremony for the “Village of Three Year Olds,” which combines the habits of three-year-olds and childrearing village. This social campaign jointly run by Seoul Metropolitan City and the Gachon Gil Foundation seeks to get society as a whole to share the burden of childrearing. Foundation head Lee Gil-ya said, “If society or village as a whole as well as grandparents share the burden of childrearing, Korea can raise its birth rate, which has remained the world’s lowest.” The neuroscience institute will introduce content on brain science and childrearing through courses for would-be parents, a project for childbirth celebration, sessions for grandparents, and training for childrearing experts. If the village campaign can effectively combine cutting-edge technology in neuroscience with analog emotion for rearing infants and toddlers, it could become a symbol of “digilog” education.

Editorial Writer Kim Sun-deok (yuri@donga.com)