Finding ways to overcome cultural differences

Published on February 3, 2018

Dear Dr. Park,

I'm single and have been living with a Korean man for the last 5 years. He has a wife and children in Korea. His marriage was arranged by the man’s family, which means it is a family issue and he cannot divorce of his own free will. He doesn't love his wife, but he can’t part from her because Korean society generally frowns upon divorce. He has stopped having sexual relations with his wife. He visits his family 4 or 5 times a year for a week and talks on the phone to them quite often.

Is it possible for him to remain married but otherwise have no relationship? Can his Korean wife accept that he has a relationship with another woman as long as she is receiving financial support? If they divorce, will his children suffer for the rest of their lives? When I think of his wife and kids, I would rather stop my relationship with him. Even when he was in Korea after he married, he used to sleep with hookers.

Now, since he met me, he has changed...it's over, he says. And he wants me to be his second wife. But I'm not sure. Can I trust him and support him to take responsibility for his family? In Korean culture, is divorce really a crime? Please give me advice.

Dear sender,

I can see how unstable and dubious your feelings are at the moment. It is quite true that husbands in Korea tend to feel heavily responsible for their children and families and tend to be afraid of divorce. However, even though they do, it must be burdensome for you if you to continue this relationship in this way.

As his wife and children are in Korea, you may not experience much trouble caused by them. But if you stay in this relationship, it is possible to find yourself in increasingly complicated consequences as time goes by. For that reason, even though this relationship with him might have satisfied both of you so far, it could turn out to be unstable in the long-term.

In fact, it is not easy to make a decision to live with a foreign husband as his second wife. Indeed, from a common-sense point of view, your decision is not easy to accept and I assume you might have some psychological issues about this. That is why, at this point, you have to reflect on yourself and look back on your life. Couple counseling and personal therapy might be helpful. I sincerely hope you overcome this problem.

Take care of yourself,

Dear Dr. Park,

We are U.S. citizens who have adopted two beautiful Korean girls and want to keep their experience of Korean culture alive. Do you think it's a good idea for me to try and meet Koreans? There are many Koreans in the U.S. for sure but I always feel awkward about introducing myself, yet I know how important it is for my daughters, 1 and 3, to have that culture in their lives. I live in the New Jersey/New York City area. Any thoughts? Thank you very much.

Dear sender

Thank you for your kind letter.

I think it is important for your daughters to understand their cultural roots. It is not advisable to avoid Koreans totally. .

You said you always felt awkward about introducing yourself to Koreans.

I can understand your uncomfortable feelings but you know that all human beings are the same. Differences between races, nationalities and skin color don't matter in order to make a good relationship. The most important thing is who people are.

Of course, it is the same for American people. Among Koreans, some of them have good personalities, while others do not. So you need to meet Koreans who have good characters and warm hearts. And also, I guess you will also wonder how you can find good Koreans.

I must say it will be difficult, but you can find a simple way. Find an American who has many good friends and ask him to introduce you to Koreans he or she may know. In this way, you can guarantee that you’ll be introduced to people who have good personalities. I hope your family have happy days together. Good luck and ask me anytime if you have any more questions.


Dr. Park Jin-seng is a psychiatrist who runs a clinic for foreigners in Seoul and operates the personal therapist forums on www.lifeinkorea.com. Please submit questions for Park to menninger@naver.com or call the hotline on 02-563-0678.


Category(s):Adjusting to Change / Life Transitions, Adoption / Reunion Issues, Caregiver Issues / Stress, Couple Counseling, Marital Counseling, Men's Issues, Mental Health in Asia, Women's Issues

Written by:

Dr.Park, Jinseng

Dr. Park studied at Pusan National University and did his Fellowship at Seoul National University Hospital.

He is a psychiatrist and specialist in marital counseling and family problems and wrote the bestseller, Lovers! Marry After You Have Fought. He also recently wrote a new book, Finding Yourself Within Love.

Moreover, he was an organizing committee member of the 16th International Congress of Psychotherapy.

He was a visiting professor at Catholic University (Meditation and Counseling) and is the current director of Director of Dr. Park's Psychiatric Clinic (Tel. 02-563-0609).

Dr. Park is a highly trained psychiatrist and brings a wealth of experience in treating various kinds of mental health issues and disorders.

Dr. Park got a certificate of appreciation from the U.S. Embassy in Seoul for his professionalism and dedication in assisting American citizens and their families for three years (2012- 2014).

Dr.Park, Jinseng belongs to Dr.Park's Psychiatric Clinic in South Korea

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