People don’t want to get married in South Korea anymore

“It costs what?”
“It costs what?”
Image: Reuters/Kim Hong-ji
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Many South Koreans are delaying marriage, or choosing not to tie the knot at all.

According to census statistics released today (March 21), the number of marriages recorded in 2017 fell 6.1% from the previous year to 264,500, the lowest level since record keeping began in 1970.

The falling number of marriages has been largely attributed to economic factors, including low pay, poor job security, and lack of affordable housing. One survey last year showed that the average cost of a wedding in Korea was about $40,000, compared with about $35,000 in the US.

As a result, those in Korea who do choose to get married are opting to downsize their ceremonies—for example by doing away with wedding planners and studio photoshoots, as well as the tradition of receiving and giving cash and expensive gifts between the bride and groom’s families.

But it’s also part of a growing trend of more young Koreans embracing a single lifestyle, particularly women, who make up the majority of single-person households in Korea, according to government statistics. Less than half of Korean women now believe that marriage is a must.

The latest data on marriage come just after the Korean government announced that the number of births last year hit an all-time low of 1.05 births per woman. Korea is also currently the world’s fastest-aging developed economy, with a population composed of more elderly people than young people.

The statistics office also said that the average age of Korean men getting married hit a record high of 32.9 years in 2017, while the average age of women getting married was at 30.2 years. In 2017, the average age at which Korean women had their first child was 31.6, the oldest in the world.