A growing number of Koreans are only getting married in their 40s. According to a study last year by the Gyeonggido Family and Women's Research Institute, the number of men in their 40s who tied the knot for the first time increased 4-fold from a decade ago, while the number of women more than doubled over the same period.
At matchmaking firm Duo, the number of first-time applicants in their 40s in 2011 rose 58.2 percent compared to the previous year, and three-fold since 2001.
The main reason is financial. Ahn Tae-yoon at the institute said, "Many people only want to marry once they're financially secure, and that's happening later in life these days." In other words, they put off marriage due to the high cost of buying a home, raising children and educating them.
But money is not the only reason. Hyun Nam-kyu of Duo said, "In the past, there was a socially accepted age of marriage, so people tended to tie the knot at a certain age. But this is gradually disappearing, so we see people getting married at different ages."
Attitudes toward marriage are also changing. People are no longer rushing to get married for financial security and stability, but want to find companionship after enjoying their single life to the full through travelling and dating. "People physically look more than 10 years younger nowadays than they used to," said Pi Hyun-jeong, a beauty consultant. "If having children is not your main goal in marriage, I think the best age to get married is in your late 30s."
Many people say getting married later in life is much better. Kim Yi-kum (46), a publisher who got married at 42, said, "If I'd got married in my 20s without knowing what I really wanted to do, I probably would have run away from home, unable to bear the stress of working and raising kids. The wisdom and experience I gained over the years really help me maintain a happy marriage."
The latest data from Statistics Korea show that divorce has declined as more and more couples get married later in life, suggesting that older couples tend to be more satisfied with their marriage.