1/3 of Korean Couples Live Without Sex

      July 05, 2021 14:04

      More than one-third of adults in Korea have not had sex during the past year as the country settles into late-civilization fatigue, a study suggests.

      Youm Yoo-sik and Choi Jun-yong at Yonsei University surveyed 2,182 adults in Seoul from January to May and found that 36 percent had not had sex for the past year. The proportion was 43 percent among women and 29 percent among men. A similar study 20 years ago put the figure at just 11 percent.

      The ostensible reasons varied. Half the men who had no sex for the past year blamed the lack of a partner, while the women claimed to have no interest in it.

      A sexless life is not limited to older people. Among men, those in their 20s had the least sex with 58 percent, and among women 20-somethings came second last with 57 percent after those in their 60s. "It was interesting to see that the sexless rate of respondents in their 20s was similar to the rate among people in their 60s," Youm said.

      But men and women in their 20s were also the most reluctant to respond to the survey, so the true picture may be quite different.

      "In the case of people in their 20s, many just can't afford it as they are overwhelmed by finding jobs, studying or working," Youm said. "Also, there is now an increasing variety of ways to experience sexual pleasure other than through sex with a partner and a growing number of women feel they should be able to get sexual gratification on their own without relying on another person."

      But he added, "Sex entails both physical and psychological satisfaction, and young people may be relinquishing psychological pleasure if they only masturbate."

      Youm admitted that more studies are needed to see if people in their 20s are really sexless or just refusing to say what they get up to.

      One thing that seems clear is that income makes a difference, either to sex life or candor or both. Seventy-nine percent of male middle-income earners said they had sex over the past year, compared to only 67 percent of their low-income peers.

      The pattern was similar among female respondents, with 65 percent of middle-income women saying they had sex over the past year compared to only 53 percent of low-income women.

      One reason may be that better-off people tend to have more free time and headspace.

      The researchers did not find a significant difference before and after the coronavirus pandemic. "It looks like an increasing preference to remain single, empowerment of women and extremely busy schedules are having a greater impact on sex between couples than the pandemic," Youm said.

      Overall, the researchers were surprised by how openly traditionally conservative Koreans talked about their sex life or lack of it.

      "In the past people were often against even talking about sex, so I was surprised to see the response rate of the study surpass 50 percent," Youm said. "It looks like atmosphere has developed in Korea where people can have honest discussions about sex." 

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