The number of single men between the ages of 35 and 49 in Seoul has increased 10-fold over the last two decades, and they now account for 20.1 percent of all men in this age group.
The figures come from a report on men in the capital released by the Seoul Metropolitan Government on Wednesday.
The number of single men in this age bracket increased from 24,239 in 1990 to 242,590 in 2010, while the number of single women in the same age group jumped 6.4 times to 145,218 over the same period.
Seong Jae-min at the Korea Labor Institute said, "As more and more people believe that they have little chance of getting married without money, men now tend to postpone marriage until they feel they have saved up enough."
But since the economic crisis in the late 1990s, the labor market has become increasingly flexible, and many people are on short-term contracts, which makes saving up more difficult. Seong added that the rise in property prices in Seoul also added to the cost of marriage.
Experts predict the trend will continue for some time. Prof. Kim Moon-jo at Korea University, said, "An increasing number of highly educated women are applying for good jobs that were long monopolized by men, so the number of men who can satisfy the expectations of educated women is dwindling and this means more men struggle to get married."
Men's perspective on marriage has also changed greatly. In 2006, 28.1 percent of men said marriage is a must, but the figure dropped to 20.7 percent in 2010. Some 30 percent now say marriage is optional.
The education gap also casts a dark cloud over the situation. While 52.4 percent of unmarried men only had a high-school diploma, 61 percent of unmarried women were college graduates.
The trend is likely to boost the percentage of people who never marry at all, which currently stands at 2.2 percent. If people have not married by the age of 50, they are presumed to be single for life.
The high rate of singles could put serious burden on society because it is apt to lead to increasing poverty and solitary death in later life.
Park Young-sub at the Seoul Metropolitan Government said, "Unmarried people with low income and low educational background have a great chance of facing poverty in later life."
The total number of singles between 25 and 49 rose 2.3 times from two decades ago to 1.59 million in 2010.
There were also 35,000 full-time househusbands in 2011, up 2.2 times from six years ago. Lee Bok-sil at the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said, "As more and more women are involved in economic activities, there has been a hike in the number of full-time househusbands who stay at home and support their breadwinning wives."