The Lunar New Year is one of the most celebrated holidays in Korea (and east Asia). Visiting family, worshipping ancestors, eating traditional Korean dishes and taking part in century old traditions all come to life during this color national holiday. Along with Chuseok, Korean Thanks Giving, Korean’s gather with family members to honor their deceased ancestors, clean off their ancestors tombs, give food and drink offerings, and pray is are the two most stressful holidays for single children and daughter-in-laws (as captured in many K-dramas).

Dating and marriage are not individual pursuits but family assets. Although Confucian culture originated in China, many scholars believe South Korea is even more influenced by Confucianism. Confucian values emphasize the importance of marriage and carrying on the family blood line. Getting married is considered a social responsibility. But young Korean women are increasingly leaving marriage behind.

The annual count of marriages registered in South Korea has been falling for years, with around 239,000 marriages in 2019. That year, there were 110,000 divorces. 1996, 9.6 people per 1,000 were married and 430,000 couples got married that year. In 2018, the country’s marriage rate was 5 per 1,000 people and around 250,000 couples got married—less than half of what was recorded in 1996. Less than 25% of Korean women under 30 are married; a 90% drop since 1970.

Throughout human history, marriage was an economic bond more than an emotional one. Marriage was necessary to survive in agricultural civilizations, as children were born to function as family labor and defense.

South Korea’s fertility rate has plunged to 1.06 (world average is 2.5). Birth rate is 7.00; Death rate is 6.35. Population is in steep decline.

In sharp contrast, in South Korea, 40 per cent of people in their 20s and 30s appear to have quit dating all together. It is referred to as the “sampo generation” (literally, “giving up on three”) because they have given up on these three things: dating, marriage and children. Korea is still a very conservative country in terms of morals and moral responsibility.

For career women in industrialized countries, the financial aspect of marriage is not strong. They like being independent and self-sufficient. However, many may still be living at home because of high real estate costs. The economic pressure of living at home probably does not help single men and women. And when they get out of the house to actually date, their sexual patterns fall in line with marriage commitment. Only 25% of dating couples have intercourse in the first year of dating. Another 25% reserve relations until after engagement/marriage.

Those men and women who have enjoyable careers and social lives are content to not commit themselves to a marriage partner and the baggage of traditional family responsibilities. In recent years, single children under 40 have stopped making the holiday trips to their families…


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