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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Korean-Confucian adoption at LG

Didn't think there'd be much cases like this anymore, but here's the chairman of LG, Ku Pon-mu (Koo Bon-moo) adopting his nephew (younger brother's son, "yBS" in the anthropologese) Ku Kwang-mo (Koo Gwang-mo?), aged 26 (Chosun Ilbo). Chairman Koo has only two daughters, aged 26 and 8 (!); his son died in the 90s at the age of 19. The cause of the death has never really been revealed.

The LG company tells about the adoption that according to the Confucian family tradition (유교적 가풍), the oldest son needed to continue the family line (장자의 대를 잇다), and a son was necessary for all kinds of family matters." This is supposed to be unrelated to the company management: "Koo Gwang-mo is still young and has not finished his studies, so it's too early to talk about the succession of the company managerial power."

For us anthros it's surely interesting to see this practice used in such a central place as far as Korea's economic life and export industry is concerned, but those concerned with the best possible company management may disagree.
This is the classic pattern of a Korean adoption, in which the younger brother gives one (preferably oldest) son to the older brother, or an older brother gives a younger son to a younger brother. In the so-called traditional Korea the main concern was ritual - a son to take care of the ancestor rituals, and LG wants us to believe that it's also the case here. Why not, as an anthro I should not fully go over to cynicism about the sincerity of chairman Koo's Confucian mindset, but he is a Korean conglomerate chairman as well, and the Confucian family ideology often goes too well with the idea of keeping the ownership and control in the family (Roger Janelli's Making Capitalism: The Social and Cultural Construction of a South Korean Conglomerate is about this, and is based on research conducted at the very same company).

Here's also a more detailed article in Ilyo Sinmun about the adoption case and the Koo family.

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