1 in 10 Teenagers Had Sex

Students walk down a street in Myeong-dong clustered with private rooms where users sing karaoke or play video games. Students walk down a street in Myeong-dong clustered with private rooms where users sing karaoke or play video games.

Nearly one of 10 high school students in Korea experienced sexual intercourse, according to a study by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family published Tuesday. The study shows that 87 out of 1,007 high school students surveyed, or 8.6 percent, said they had sexual intercourse.

Experts believe the actual number is much higher.

◆ Rising Numbers

Of all junior and senior high school students, 3.6 percent had sex, a 0.4 percentage point rise from the previous year, according to the study. The proportion among senior high school students increased from 5.3 percent in 2010 to 6.1 percent.

There was a marked rise as students got older. The proportion of junior high school students who had sex stood at 0.6-1.2 percent, while in high school, that jumped to 3 percent for freshmen and 8.6 percent among juniors.

Among students in general high schools, 3.9 percent said they had sex, but the proportion soared to 10.9 percent among students at vocational or technical high schools. More male students (4.5 percent) than female students (2.5 percent) said they had sex, a common but baffling result of such surveys, and the number was higher among adolescents in large cities (3.8 percent) than in rural areas (2.5 percent).

◆ Link to Social Class

The study confirmed that children from poorer families are more likely to have sex earlier. Only 3.2 percent of students who lived with both their parents admitted they had sex, but that rose to 3.9 percent for students living with single mothers and 6.5 percent for teens living with single fathers. Among students who lived apart from both parents, the proportion surged to 11.1 percent.

Cha Myung-ho, a professor at the Graduate School of Education at Pyeongtaek University, said, "The fact that more students from low-income families tend to have experienced sexual intercourse shows that teens engage in sexual relations not as the result of a healthy relationship but as part of deviant behavior."

Jang Mi-hye, a researcher at the Korean Women's Development Institute who conducted the study said, "Children tend to be neglected if they come from low-income or single-parent families, or households where both parents have to work for a living. There are many instances where teenagers from such households gather together all night, watching TV or playing games, as they are free from parents' supervision. The matter requires the close attention of parents and society."

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 08, 2012 12:37 KST