November 12, 2016 08:10
The Japanese have a word for it -- "sotsukon" or graduation from marriage. It means that couples who still love each other "live together apart" once their children are out of the house and their career is coming to a close to pursue their own dreams.
The trend is now spreading to Korea, where many older couples in an aging society feel they are not completely done with new adventures.
The concept dates back to a book published in Japan in 2004 -- "Recommending the Graduation from Marriage" by Yumiko Sugiyama -- and became especially popular among working women who also had to raise their children.
A 35-year-old office worker who married seven years ago said, "I feel a sense of liberation when I think about being able to wrap up my hectic lifestyle someday."
Another woman who works at a hospital said, "I think I can consider this lifestyle because I can support myself and I’m not afraid of living alone."
One matchmaking service in Korea conducted a survey on the subject and found that 63 percent of women and 54 percent of men liked the idea. In Japan too, women are keener on the idea than men.
The concept also fits in with a growing trend among young people to do things alone, including eating and drinking.
But in fact the concept of graduating from marriage is not new for Koreans. Many older couples prefer to sleep in separate rooms or live apart due to work or other circumstances and get together only for family gatherings.
But in sotsukon marriages the partners still love each other, while many older couples here merely stay married out of convenience and are on the verge of divorce. If they live apart, it is because divorce entails tremendous economic and psychological costs.
Marriage counselor Kang Hak-joong said, "Couples can depend on each other in their twilight years, and if they learn to maintain a relationship where they don’t impinge on each other's territory, they can live happily without graduating from marriage."
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