Friday, May 14, 2021

Damunwha in South Korea


Graffiti in Ansan (Wikicommons – Piotrus)


I've published a paper on the Damunwha children of South Korea. In that country, foreign brides, mainly from Southeast Asia, produce almost 6% of births. These children do poorly at school, ostensibly because of discrimination and imperfect learning of spoken Korean from their mothers. Yet they actually do well in subjects that emphasize social interaction and spoken language. Their learning deficit is in subjects that require abstraction and memorization, such as mathematics.


This is the abstract:


In South Korea, over 10% of new couples involve a foreign bride. Most come from Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia), and others from East Asia (China, Japan). Such couples now produce almost 6% of births. Their children tend to do badly at school and many drop out, the commonly cited reason being the child's poor acquisition of language skills from a foreign mother. In reality, Damunwha ("multicultural children") have no trouble with spoken Korean. Their deficiency is in written Korean, particularly in literary and specialized vocabulary that is largely learned at school. They actually do well in subjects that emphasize the spoken language and social interaction, like music, painting, and physical education. They do badly only in those subjects that require abstraction and memorization, like mathematics and social studies. Damunwha children are also more prone to hyperactivity, impulsivity, and non-compliance with rules. These divergences in cognition and behavior seem confined to children of Southeast Asian mothers, since children of Chinese or Japanese mothers perform as well as those of unmixed Korean parentage. It looks as if the country's social norms, particularly those of Confucianism, favored the spread of certain cognitive and behavioral traits within the Korean population, and more broadly among East Asians. These traits include not only high cognitive ability but also a high capacity to obey rules, to defer gratification, and to control impulsive behavior.




Frost, P. (2021). Damunwha in South Korea: A case study of divergences in cognition and behavior. Advances in Anthropology 11(2): 153-162.





Atavisionary said...

>These divergences in cognition and behavior seem confined to children of Southeast Asian mothers, since children of Chinese or Japanese mothers perform as well as those of unmixed Korean parentage

This makes sense. Intelligence and other cognitive traits are substantially X-linked, and thus show that type of inheritance pattern. In the first generation, the mother's innate abilities will matter more in sons than daughters, though the daughters will still be affected since half their active X is southeast asian rather than northeast. 2cnd generation children from daughters would be expected to move back toward the mean, while children of sons could expect mostly normal sons and mean approaching daughters (assuming the partner of the children was native korean). There is a lot you could tease out if you applied x linked inheritance patterns to the data.

Uwot said...

Scott, you used to say just 2 years ago that Southeast Asian births make up roughly 1/3 of all births. Now you are correcting to 6% is that right?

Al Smith said...

My perception of Vietnamese is that they probably have what would be considered normative intelligence for whites. (higher than the rest of SE Asia, due to more mixing with the Chinese) Perhaps, there is a bias in the Vietnamese that I've known - suburban, or college-educated. All from immigrant stock.

Admittedly, it is hard to rationalize my perception with the traditional dominance of Chinese businessmen in Vietnam, unless the intelligence of the local Chinese are higher, than the Chinese average.

But I've always been surprised by these tales of dysfunction coming out of SK, where the biggest input seems to be Vietnamese brides. I wonder if white happas have similar troubles. The Vietnamese used Chinese characters, until the French came, I believe.

Peter Frost said...


Hmm, not sure, but I'll look into your reference.


That prediction was made by Faustino John Lim in 2011:

"They are expected to number over 1.6 million by 2020, with a third of all children born that year the offspring of international unions."

That same year there was a crackdown on mail-order brides, and the number of "multicultural marriages" declined from 10.8% in 2010 to 7.4% in 2015. It looks like Lim was expecting the percentage of multicultural marriages to increase to 15%. If you factor in their higher fertility, you get his estimate of one third of all Korean children being produced by those marriages.

The percentage of multicultural marriages is now increasing again. It was 10.3% in 2019.

Al Smith,

Biggest input? Not exactly. Vietnamese mothers account for 38% of births to foreign mothers in South Korea.