Wednesday, May 14, 2014

South Korea's 'Wife-Training' School at The Institute Of Etiquette And Wisdom

Though Westernized wedding ceremonies are now the norm, some Korean brides prefer the ancient bridal traditions, when weddings (honrye) were held in the bride's yard or home. Hand lanterns were used for lighting the way from the groom's home to the bride's home on the night before the wedding. Traditionally, the groom's family would carry a wedding chest filled with gifts for the bride's family. The bride and groom wore formal court costumes for the wedding ceremony. Etiquette dictated that ordinary people were only permitted to wear the luxurious clothes on their wedding day. The groom would travel by horse to the bride's home. After the ceremony, he would take his wife in a palanquin (sedan chair) to his parents' home, where they would live.   

Inside South Korea’s Institute of Etiquette and ‘Wife-Training’ School

In one small corner of South Korea, tradition and customs have never been forgotten - at the Institute Of Etiquette And Wisdom, South Korea's ultimate finishing school.

For over 25 years, as part of its "bridal course," it has been training selected young women to become accomplished and desirable wives.

Women hope the course will give them an edge selecting a husband
South Korea's society has changed massively in the last 30 years, with the roles of the traditionally dominant men and submissive women being transformed.

Students learn everything from the complex rules and traditions dictating a formal Korean wedding to the symbolism of food served on special occasions.
Tradition and symbolism: Pairs of wooden Mandarin duck carvings called "wedding ducks" are often used in traditional wedding ceremonies because they represent peace, fidelity, and plentiful offspring.  Wedding geese symbolize a long and happy marriage. Cranes, which may be represented on the woman's sash, are a symbol of long life.
"As we go into the 21st Century, young people have to know about the culture and manners of the country," according to Pak Yong-suk, director of the school.

"It is to teach these things that I set up the school."

A Korean bride and groom of 1920


  1. Never tell a husband what to do
  2. Don't wear noisy shoes
  3. Reject first two offers to hold hands
  4. Further teaching ranges from how to walk silently and how far to bend the body when bowing, to how a woman should rebuff a man's attempt to hold her hand.
They should refuse twice, the lessons instruct, before accepting on the third try.

For its detractors, the Institute is an anachronism in one of the fastest-moving countries in the world.

Long noodles are served in South Korea on special occasions, but few people know why - it is to wish for a long life and happiness.

Marriage Hopes

For its supporters, the Institute's program remains a reminder of a timeless past, teaching valuable lessons that will one day give the girls the edge when it comes to selecting a husband.

One example, Ms Pak points out, is that long noodles are served in South Korea on special occasions, but few people know why - it is to wish for a long life and happiness.

 If you say 'I attended the Institute Of Etiquette And Wisdom', there will be households where you will get added points

"Before joining this course, it seems to me that I did not really know about the formal rules of Korean etiquette," student Park Ji-yon
"Like most Korean families, we hold ceremonies to remember our ancestors. I knew roughly that on those occasions I had to hold my hands in front of me.

"I used to do that any old how. Yesterday I learned that women have to put their right hand over their left, while men put their left hand over their right.

"It was something I was roughly aware of, but now I know categorically."

In one classroom, the students listen to a lecture on wearing traditional Korean costume.

They are told that if visiting the parents of a boyfriend, never wear strapless shoes - especially in the summer.

"Walking around going 'clack, clack,' is so ill-mannered," the teacher informs them.

"Never wear this type of shoes. If you have to, have some rubber put on the soles."

At least she's not wearing strapless shoes ~ Did South Korea return to its days of over-the-top censorship when an "overexposure law" went into effect in South Korea in March of 2013.  Under the decree, people deemed to be "overexposed" in public will be subject to a fine of 50,000 KRW (US$45). When the new legislation was announced, many residents assumed it meant restrictions on revealing outfits that are prevalent on the streets of Seoul and other South Korean cities.  The so-called "no pants" look has become a fashion staple, with women ditching pants and skirts for leggings, stocking or barely-there microshorts.
The reason that so many women sign up is the deep-rooted belief that it will give them a boost in the marriage stakes.

Park Ji-yon is very explicit about this; her mother, sister and cousin have all previously attended the course.

"This might sound a bit funny, but within some families, if you say 'I attended the Institute Of Etiquette And Wisdom', there will be households where you will get added points," she insisted.

"It means you are ready for marriage."

An artist's depiction of a traditional Korean wedding in 1889
South Korea places huge importance on the continuation of the family line, and living together before marriage is still greatly frowned upon.

This, some believe, makes securing a good match essential.

And Ms Pak has advice for staying happily married too.

"A woman must never tell her husband what to do," Pak Yong-Suk said.

"For example, saying, 'on the way home, go to the supermarket and buy this, this and this, and don't forget' - you mustn't do this.

"This is giving an order."

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