Korean companies are expanding rapidly their new services and products to benefit from the recent social phenomenon of a surge in the number of single households set against an ever-decreasing marriage rate, more divorced couples and a graying population.
This has led to the growing industry for tailor-made travel packages for one person, companion animals, helpers for the elderly and, generally, products for people who live alone or who want to do things independently rather than -- as is traditional in Korea -- in a group.
The pet industry is perhaps the best example of the latest fad. The market is believed to have grown to W1.8 trillion (US$1=W1,072) this year, double its rate a decade ago. It now includes not only pet food, but also clothing and accessories for canines, from dainty dog sneakers to Superman suits, and other goods and services such as pet hotels.
Meanwhile, one out of three travelers in Korea now heads off on their vacation alone. According to Interpark Tour, reservations for overseas tours from January 2009 to May 2011 showed that one in three who did not choose a packaged vacation would be heading off alone.
This has made Japan's famous "capsule hotels" increasingly popular among Koreans, who can wriggle inside one of the coffin-shaped units for about W50,000 (US$1=W1,072) per night -- a rate impossible to find elsewhere in room-starved metropolises like Tokyo and Osaka.
"Solo travelers will represent 40 percent of all Korean holidaymakers in three years' time as low-cost airlines are increasing, and more and more tour programs for solo travelers are being introduced," said Nam Chang-im, a manager at Interpark.
The growth of single-person households is also changing the way department stores select and present their products.
Lotte Department Store changed the layout of its food court, so that over 40 percent of the area is taken up by bar-like tables for those who come shopping alone. Sales have jumped more than 40 percent since it made the switch, Lotte said.
Korea is also following in Japan's footsteps by building more shopping malls designed specifically for single consumers.
As the country's population steadily ages, lunchbox delivery stores for senior citizens who live alone are enjoying hitherto unmatched prosperity. At the same time, the market for companies offering home help for the elderly is becoming saturated, with at least 20 businesses now competing for their custom.
Errand-running companies are also emerging. These take care of trivial errands for customers such as food deliveries for a relatively low charge of W5,000 to W20,000, all facilitated by a phone call.
"A lot of domestic assistant agencies have recently changed their main target customers from working women to elderly people," said Kang Byung-oh, a business consultant in Seoul. "Companies that provide delivery and other errand-running services to single-person households are expected to be the dominant model in the service industry within the next decade."