Gender Ratio Gets Worse for Marriageable Korean Men

Men will find it harder than ever to find a bride as the sex ratio at the age of first marriage declines in their disfavor. According to Chosun Ilbo analysis of Statistics Korea's 2010 census, the population at first marriage age  -- 29-33 for men and 26-30 for women -- will rise from 111 men per 100 women this year to 119 in 2012, and to 123 in 2013 and 2014. The ratio is expected to decline a little to 119 men per 100 women the following year.

Men aged 29-33 will outnumber women aged 26-30 by about 190,000 this year, by 318,000 in 2012, by 360,000 in 2013, by 340,000 in 2014, and by 275,000 in 2015. Last year they outnumbered women by only 70,000.

The imbalance is partly due to the traditional preference for sons in Korean society, since people born in the years when this trend had the most noticeable effect are now reaching marriageable age. The number of single men in their mid-30s will increase significantly from next year, and experts predict that there will be more pairings of younger men with older women or between bachelors and divorcees.

Prof. Cho Nam-hoon of Hanyang University said since people are increasingly taking their time to get married, the imbalance will not be immediately noticeable, but it will become "a big social issue in five or six years."

◆ 2nd Baby Boomer Generation

Many babies were born in 1955-1963 when life stabilized after the Korean War. When they grew up, these first-generation baby boomers in turn tended to have a lot of children between 1979 and 1983. These children of the so-called second baby boom are now in the 29-32 age group.

They have not had it easy. By 1999, the group experienced the most competitive college entrance exams yet, and when they graduated the country was hit by a recession, so they found it extremely difficult to land jobs. And now the men among them are expected to have trouble finding a partner.

There are 386,000 29-year-old men and 409,000 30-year-old men, compared to a mere 281,600 24-year-old women and 317,000 27-year-old women, assuming that that is the normal age difference for eligible bachelors and women.

In the mid-80s, baby gender testing and abortions were rampant to determine the sex of children. As a result, the male-female ratio tipped in favor of boys to the extent that their number exceeds 110 per 100 women over a decade from 1986.

It seems young men are now paying the price for the older generation's preference for sons.

◆ More Unconventional Marriages

It seems likely that many men who have failed to find a partner who fits the conventional parameters will marry foreign women, older women, or divorcees.

The number of foreign brides has declined after peaking at 30,000 in 2005, but that is expected to rise again.

More men are also marrying women who are one or two years older, accounting for 11 percent, or 27,000, of all marriages last year. The age gap and frequency of such marriages are expected to grow.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jun. 14, 2011 07:12 KST