One in four households in Korea is now a single person, and they are gradually being accepted as just another way of life amidst changing perceptions of marriage. Above all they are emerging as a vital new consumer group.
The increase in singles is a universal phenomenon, especially in advanced economies. Their number is growing explosively in Korea for a number of reasons including the ageing society and people marrying later.
The 2010 Census revealed that single households took up 23.9 percent of the total, and in the 2015 Census that is expected to grow to one-third.
Among men, the biggest proportion of single householders are aged 28, presumably just before marriage, and steadily declines afterwards. Among women the age is 26, with a second peak at the age of 79.
Although the average single householder is quite young, the age is likely to increase as some never marry at all.
The income and education of singles have also risen, and they are very active consumers. The average single now spends more per month than a two-person household.
Singles over 20 and under 60 make up a sizeable percentage of the total population, and they have emerged as an important consumer group.
The Korea Chamber of Commerce and industry has unsurprisingly found consumption patterns among singles to be mostly self-oriented. A survey it conducted showed a tendency among singles to increase spending on travel, self-development, leisure, and health, and cut down on eating out, TV, clothing, and food.
They tend to buy most things online except for food, and prefer to keep shopping simple by going to big supermarkets.
But singles are no longer lonely. They have long found a way to keep themselves entertained by going to the cinema, theatre or concerts, and travel packages, hotels, restaurants and even karaoke facilities for singles have sprung up.
Small electronics and built-in home appliances are selling well among them, and small homes are increasingly popular. More and more TV shows focus on the daily life of singles.
The demand for security and domestic services is on the rise, and a boom in the pet industry is expected as many have dogs or cats as companions. Life may be easy for young singles, but as they need to be self-reliant in later life, they will have to be extra careful in planning for their retirement.