I suspect it's a cultural thing... the whole keeping secrets thing. It is preferred that one's "mouth is heavy", i.e. your lips aren't flapping, sharing all your secrets with the world.
On my own personal blog, I air much dirty laundry - mainly because I started the blog to air dirty laundry that I couldn't even air within my own family but also because I have maintained somewhat of an anonymous status. Every now and then, I pause to think how much of that airing would bother my own mother who believes in keeping everything close to her heart, who likes to believe that she's protecting her own children by sheltering us from knowing our own family history. I have a feeling that, since my audience does not include anyone from her social circles, she would generously allow me that platform...
I grew up gathering crumbs here and there that I had to piece together to get, at very best, a hazy picture of my mother's family. Here are the facts:
1. My great-grandfather, at the height of Chinese Revolution while they were burning books and closing down brothels, nobly rushed to China to bring back a brothel madam. She was known to us as "kkoma halmoni" ('little grandma' as she was a very petite woman). She chain-smoked and was the same age as my grandfather. I still don't really know the nature of their relationship - as far as I know, Kkoma Halmoni is no blood relation. I used to love my mother's description of her arrival; apparently, she stepped down from the ship, wrapped in luxurious fur, carrying a cat in one arm, and smoking a lady's slender pipe. In my own memory, however, Kkoma Halmoni will always be that mean old woman who stank of stale cigarettes.
2. My mother has two half-sisters. My great-grandfather, who's starting to sound like a certain type, was impatient for a grandson. When my grandmother was unable to produce another child after having given birth to my mother, he promptly got a seed-bearer (ssibaji) for my grandfather. Ssibaji gave birth to two girls; meanwhile, my grandmother was able to conceive and gave birth to 2 sons in a row, another girl, then one more boy. I think ssibaji was sent away... but I have no idea who raised the half-sisters. I met one of my half-aunts during my visit in October last year.
3. When my uncle died, I didn't know about it for months! My mother had kept it a secret from us, lest the news disturb our lives.
4. During our visit to Korea last year, I met a multitude of relatives at a wedding; my mother mumbled here and there about someone's 'other' family. I think my great-uncle had another family on the side...? Or maybe it was my great-grandfather's 'other' family's son's 'other' family...?
5. When my sister divorced a few years ago, my mother kept it a secret. Until last year. Early last year, my mother came to attend my sister's wedding. She then revealed that no one in Korea knew why she was visiting since no one knew that my sister had divorced so she couldn't very well tell people about her getting remarried! So, last fall, she told a few relatives, in confidence, that my sister had gotten remarried - to a different guy.
Lest I reveal TOO much of my family's secrets, I shall stop here.
It's not just her. I inquired about an old friend of ours, one of my mother's friend's daughters. I found out that she's, in fact, in the U.S. somewhere! But, no, I cannot have her phone number or contact information... you see, the rumor has it that she got a divorce from her doctor husband, so they shipped her to the States for 'her studies' and she is apparently married again. Me thinks she married a non-Korean, the way no one seems to know exactly what happened to her.
Which makes me wonder how much of a secret it was when my sister got married 15 years ago to her first white husband...
How about you? Do you find that your family or your in-laws have these crazy secrets, some with legitimate reasons and some so innocuous that you wonder why they're secrets at all?
Come on, tell all... Is Korean culture, in general, more secretive/discreet? Of course, I find some of it to be selective discretion... but maybe that's just my family.