More and more Koreans are deciding to stay single or, if they marry, to have no children. Like most developments this is led by the capital, where the number of people who live alone has increased more than 10-fold over the last 30 years, while that of childless couples has grown more than four times.
The figures come from data about the 3.6 million households within city limits released by the Seoul Metropolitan Government on Tuesday.
Childless married couples accounted for a mere 5.51 percent or 101,135 households in 1980, but that surged to 12.8 percent or 423,229 in 2010.
Among singles the surge was even more dramatic -- from 4.49 percent or 82,477 households in 1980 to a whopping 24.39 percent or 854,606 in 2010. From the rarest kind of domestic setup, the single household has now turned into the second most common.
There is a wide gap in the views of marriage and divorce between men and women. Some 39.4 percent of women in Seoul say marriage is optional, compared to only 27.7 percent of men.
Some 41.8 percent of women consider divorce an option, whereas 54.1 percent of men remain firmly opposed.
The reason may be that while more women have careers, attitudes in marriage have not changed apace. Women are normally saddled with all the domestic duties and childcare just as they were 30 years ago. Most of the victims of domestic violence are still women.
Women in Seoul spend 3 hours and 13 minutes a day on average doing housework and taking care of children, even though half of them have jobs, compared to a mere 29 minutes for men.
Domestic violence remains commonplace. Last year, 16.7 percent of married couples, or one in six, in Seoul experienced domestic violence. Women accounted for 15.3 percent of victims, far higher than the proportion in Australia (4.9 percent), Japan and the U.K. (3 percent), and the U.S. (1.3 percent).
The city government said it conducted the survey to work out policies to better meet shifting needs and conditions of Seoul residents and come up with specific policies by December.