The market for pets is rapidly expanding as more people live alone or in nuclear families and the population ages.
The market is expected to grow from W1 trillion in 2010 to W1.8 trillion in 2013 and W6 trillion by 2020. It has spawned a burgeoning support industry of veterinarian clinics, pet beauty shops, pet playgrounds and pet-sitting services. Shops that sell premium pet food, medical devices and even fitness equipment are also on the rise.
Over 10 million Koreans have pets. According to a Gallup poll, 17.4 percent of households in Korea have a pet, with the number of dogs and cats estimated at 7 million.
The industry believes the growth in the number of one- or two-person households as the main reason for the growing market. Pets are now more commonly regarded as a lifetime companion or family member.
According to Statistics Korea, single households were the most common form of household in Korea last year with 4.54 million, or 25.3 percent of the total population. Next were two-person households with 25.2 percent.
Chung Byung-hyun, a veterinary medicine professor at Konkuk University, said, "There are many cases where people who live alone get a pet to overcome loneliness."