Why Koreans Divorce

      July 24, 2008 09:02

      What lies behind the divorces of Korean couples? The Korea Legal Aid Center for Family Relations recently revealed intriguing statistics about the reasons for divorce compiled over 50 years at its Seoul head office and regional chapters nationwide, between 1956, the year the center opened, and 2006.

      In the 1950s and 60s, the largest number of women cited their husbands' extramarital affairs as the reason for divorce (45.7 percent). The second largest group decided to leave because their husbands abused or mistreated their parents (27.8 percent). In the 1970s, womanizing husbands also topped the list of divorce reasons, but an increase was conspicuous in the number of women who wanted a divorce since their husbands remained missing a decade after the end of the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

      The number of women who sought shelter from their husbands' violence increased by 10 percent to 31.3 percent in the 1980s. During the period, a growing number of men also visited the center to seek advice about getting divorced from wives who had left them to escape domestic violence. In the 1990s, the largest number of women wanted a divorce due to domestic violence. More than half of visitors (50.9 percent) who came to the center discussed a divorce with counselors in the 1990s, up from 39.9 percent in the 1980s. Park So-hyun, an adviser at the center, said if an increasing number of women wanted to get divorced citing domestic violence, it was because they did not want to put up with the situation and chose to find a solution through divorce, rather than because of a rise in domestic violence per se.

      In the 2000s, discussions of divorce increased to 53.3 percent of visitors -- not because of infidelity or domestic violence by husbands but because of financial difficulties amid the repercussions of the Asian economic crash of 1997. In the period, the number of men who wanted a divorce due to mistreatment and violence by their wives rose to 10 percent, from 3.6 percent in the 1980s.

      A new phenomenon in the 2000s is that a growing number of old couples choose to divorce. In 2006, the number of men and women who discussed a divorce at the center after their children entered college increased 1.7 times and 2.7 times respectively, compared to 1995. During the same period, the number of men complaining about physical abuse and maltreatment by their wives also jumped 2.5 times. The number of remarried couples who wanted another divorce also rose 1.4 times.

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