Half of Koreans Don't Feel the Need to Marry

  • By Shon Jin-seok, Ahn Jun-yong

    November 26, 2016 08:13

    One in two Koreans no longer feels the need to marry and a growing number of people accept that unmarried couples live together, according to a survey by Statistics Korea. The institution of marriage is weakening, and other pressures now occupy center stage in people's life. Half the public are stressed and anxiety is growing over crime and health.

    Statistics Korea conducts the social survey annually focusing on five topics: family, education, health, public safety and environment. This time it polled 38,600 people over 13.

    ◆ Family Values

    The proportion of respondents who feel marriage is necessary is falling rapidly, from 56.8 percent in 2014 to 51.9 percent this year, while 48 percent now think it is fine for unmarried couples to live together. Meanwhile the proportion who think divorce must be avoided at all costs fell from 44.4 percent in 2014 to 39.5 percent this year.

    The role of the patriarch is also weakening. The proportion of teenagers who turn to their parents for advice stands at only 24.1 percent, and of those a mere 3.5 percent look to their father for guidance, compared to 20.6 percent who turn to their mothers. But 44.4 percent prefer to ask their friends.

    Some 75.4 percent said Korea's wedding customs are excessive, reflecting how tired many are of the high cost and complicated procedures.

    ◆ Education

    More than 65 percent said education is too expensive. A majority said the main reason is spending on private after-school tutoring.

    More and more hope to send their children to study abroad, rising from 55.6 percent in 2014 to 57.4 percent this year. Naturally the rich were the keenest with 65.3 percent of households earning more than W6 million a month saying they want to educate their kids abroad (US$1=W1,174).

    Parents and children differ about how much education is enough. Among schoolkids, 64.7 percent said they want to graduate from a university compared to 72.8 percent of parents. The higher the parent's education, the more they wished their children to earn a master's degree.

    ◆ Health

    Most Koreans are stressed, with 54.7 percent of men and 57.3 percent of women, and many turn to alcohol and cigarettes to help them relax. Two out of three or 65.4 percent drink regularly, a slight increase compared to two years ago.

    The proportion who said they drink to socialize fell from 61.2 to 53.1 percent, but the proportion who drink due to stress rose from 35.3 to 41.1 percent. However, the number of smokers fell from 22.7 to 20.8 percent due to the cigarette price hike.

    Suicidal urges waned slightly from 6.8 percent to 6.4 percent, while more women (7.5 percent) than men (5.3 percent) felt these impulses. Money problems were the most cited reason with 35.5 percent of that group.

    ◆ Social Environment

    Koreans are beset by multiple anxieties. Some 45.5 percent said they fear crime or illness. Fears of crime (29.7 percent), threats to national security (19.3 percent) and economic risks (15.5 percent) are the most prevalent. Fear of man-made disasters (21 percent) dwindled while anxiety about economic risks rose 5.8 percentage points.

    The proportion who feel Korean society will become safer in the next five years fell from 20.2 to 15.4 percent, while those who feel it will become more dangerous increased from 27.1 to 38.5 percent.

    People are acutely sensitive to air pollution as the country suffers frequent toxic hazes blown over from China with 79.4 percent.

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