It cost an average W202.99 million to get married and buy a home for the newlyweds, according to a survey by the Korea Consumer Agency of 500 couples who tied the knot in the last two years and their parents (US$1=W1,061). That is 2.5 times more than the cost tallied in a survey 10 years ago.
Three factors stand out. First, while incomes increased at a snail's pace, wedding expenses skyrocketed. The cost of a wedding, dowry and honeymoon rose from W28.62 million 10 years ago to W51.98 million, while the cost of buying a couple's first home tripled from W62.26 million to W107.8 million. As a result, the overall cost of marriage rose 2.5 times from W90.88 million to W202.99 million.
But the average monthly household income rose only 1.5 times from W2.63 million to W4.08 million. The average age of marrying couples also rose by two years to 32.1 for men and 29.4 for women.
Second, low-income households felt the pinch especially hard. People who make less than W3 million a month said they spent W40.93 million on their wedding and W105.17 million to lease a home. That amounted to at least 64 months worth of pay.
In contrast, people who made more than W8 million a month spent W72.39 million on their wedding and W207.88 million on a home, or 43 months of pay. Although the cost was higher for richer couples, the cost was more burdensome for the poorer ones.
Third, spending on weddings varied markedly between different income levels. Among the 1,000 people surveyed, the cheapest wedding cost W3.34 million, while the most expensive cost a whopping W303.65 million.
Some 85 percent of the respondents said Korea's wedding culture is "excessive." Twenty-eight percent said keeping up with the Kims is the biggest pressure, while 25 percent felt the main reason is materialism.