Rising housing price and wedding costs mean even one in three low-income households now spend at least W100 million on a wedding (US$1=W1,138).
The Chosun Ilbo and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family commissioned World Research to poll 300 couples who got married in the last three years. It found that 32.2 percent of couples whose parents had combined assets under W600 million still spent more than W100 million when they got married.
This means parents of poor financial standing spend 15-20 percent of their total assets when one child gets married.
Couples felt uneasy about spending such a huge share of the wealth their parents had worked many years to accumulate, but at the same time they tended to think they spent less than others. Some 35.6 percent of respondents admitted the cost of their marriage was excessive considering the financial standing of both families, but 50.8 percent said they spent less than other people they know.
Hong Jin-pyo, a psychiatrist at Asan Medical Center, said, "People are very sensitive about the way other people see them, and there's strong pressure to conform in Korea, so people try to act according to what society expects of them rather than evaluating their own financial situation realistically. As a result the middle class aspires to emulate the wedding culture of the upper class, and the lower class emulates that of the middle class."
And Prof. Ryu Sung-yul of Baekseok University said, "If this trend continues, low-income households will fall into the abyss faster than anyone else." The middle class and above can plan post-retirement with private pension schemes, but those in less fortunate situation take out loans for the weddings of their children, so their children are also more likely to start their married life in debt.