Divorces among middle-aged and elderly couples who had been married for at least 20 years has reached an all-time high, surpassing the proportion of recently married couples.
According to data published by the Supreme Court, out of 114,316 couples who divorced last year, 30,234 or 26.4 percent were middle-aged or elderly couples. Over 8,600 divorcing couples had lived together for at least 30 years, up 8.8 percent from the previous year.
The proportion of divorces among the middle-aged or elderly had been on the rise from 23.1 percent (26,942) in 2008 to 24.8 percent (28,299) in 2011.
The number first surpassed 30,000 last year, overtaking the 28,204 divorces (24.8 percent) among younger couples who had been married for four years or less.
The same trend was noticeable in a report by Statistics Korea earlier this year.
The report showed that the divorce rate among younger couples has been dwindling since 1990, while that of the couples who were married for over two decades has soared.
Compared to 1990, the divorce rate in 2011 among couples married less than four years dropped by 12.6 percent, and that of couples married between five and nine years fell by 10.1 percent. But the number of couples who divorced after over 20 years of marriage rose 19.6 percent over the same period.
Kim Young-hee at the Seoul Family Court said, "The perception of marriage amongst the middle-aged and elderly is changing, and as society changes the court places a greater premium on domestic work when dividing assets in the divorce cases."
She said this has prompted many women "who endured long years of unhappy marriage" to seek a divorce in later life.
But more and more young couples now tend to cohabit before getting married, which seems to have reduced the divorce rate among them.
Kim added that it seems that the conventional wisdom that time strengthens the bond between husband and wife does not true hold. "An increasing number of older people decide to get divorce as they hope to spend their remaining years in some peace and tranquility," she said.
A survey by Statistics Korea suggests that the older the couples are, the less satisfied they are with each other. Women aged between 55 and 59 and men aged between 70 and 74 were the least satisfied with their spouse. Overall, 71.8 percent of men were happy with their wife but only 59.2 percent of women with their husband.