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Taegyo: how the rich pamper their fetuses

Marian Chu  기사승인 2017.08.31  06:00:06

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“Full House” actor Rain and actress Kim Tae-hee have left to Italy for their taegyo vacation Monday, gathering public attention to the concept of a pregnant mother vacationing to enhance the welfare of her baby and herself.

Taegyo, or the Korean version of prenatal education, refers to a Chinese tradition that took its roots in the country at the end of the Goryeo era (918-1392). It gained popularity in successive dynasties when a Korean scholar, Lee Sajudang wrote Taegyoshingi in the 1800s.

The book asserts that the ten-month education in the womb is more important than the ten-year education that follows.

The practice is rooted in the idea that the fetus is a person and life begins at conception. The mother starts caring for the child from conception, explaining why newborns in Korea are considered one-year-old at birth.

Taegyo may begin before conception – in the selection of one’s husband, according to a research paper by Kim Hyeon-ok.. Tradition has it that women should select “a healthy and smart male to gain an intelligent and kind child.”

Pregnant mothers have been traditionally expected to listen to classical music, read and study math and English, look and hear only good things while avoid seeing bad things, the research paper outlined. Women are advised to avoid taking medication and instead take Oriental medicine, eat only healthy foods, abstain from sex and call her husband on the phone often, among other things, it added.

Mindfulness is also a critical element of taegyo. As a part of maintaining a “peaceful state of mind,” pregnant mothers “should not hate others, have evil thoughts, avoid feeling sad, say only positive things, and engage in prayer,” the study said.

Source: An Ethnographic Study about Taegyo Practice in Korea by Kim Hyeon-ok

The overall purpose of practicing taegyo is to foster a kind, intelligent, and successful child as the education in a mother’s womb is thought to impact the child’s future prospects in all areas of life.

The older generation of women in their 40s or older strictly adhered to the taegyo philosophy, with around 90 percent of them practicing it in the 1990s, according to another study.

The popular tradition has continued into the 21st century with almost every book on prenatal care covering a section on taegyo.

The tradition has become ironically more important in an era where fertility rates are dropping to record-low levels as parents are investing more time - and money - into planned pregnancies than in the past.

Related : Birthrate falls 12% to hit record low

Now, working women are spending generous amounts to practice the age-old philosophy in a myriad of ways that are leaving some surprised and others wondering who these programs are for exactly.

“When I discussed it with my fellow medical residents, it seems that practicing taegyo is more for the mother than for the baby,” said a medical resident who wished to remain anonymous.

Taegyo vacations, for one, have begun to gain popularity. Recent trends show most mothers going to national tourist destinations such as Jeju Island while citing the need to experience pleasant things for the baby while also bonding with their unborn child.

Travel agencies have also seized the opportunity to create “taegyo travel packages” to pander to the pregnant demographic. The more affluent are vacationing abroad in increasing numbers with Hallyu stars, like Rain and Kim Tae-hee, throwing a spotlight onto the latest fad.

The city of Yongin has also jumped on the bandwagon, promoting taegyo at a municipal level by creating the “world’s first taegyo city.” The city will run prenatal education programs, distribute related information on its homepage, host festivals, and maintain a “taegyo forest.”

The forest camps serve an alternative for working mothers to experience the wilderness and to gain peace of mind over the weekend, according to those that participated in the programs.

The operator of the programs says parents and their expecting children will benefit from naturally produced organic compounds such as phytoncide and turpentine, which are produced naturally by trees and plants.

In the meanwhile, taegyo related programs, vacations, and material have emerged as a profitable business and a stress-relief outlet for those that can afford it.

Some even go as far to say that taegyo has become the start of private education, making the mother’s womb a schoolroom for the fetus with the best education money can buy.

And similar to the likelihood of a child receiving a private education, recent research by Kim Young-hee has shown the probability of a woman practicing taegyo is linked, not to one’s mindset, but to one’s income.

“Of sociodemographic characteristics, family income was a predictor of the practice of taegyo, indicating that pregnant women considered the costs associated… because they recognized taegyo as being the beginning of private education,” the research paper said.

yjc@docdocdoc.co.kr

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