March 10, 2021 11:20
Marriage is on the decline, but the statistics also seem to be skewed by thousands of young couples who have not registered their marriage yet because they see no immediate advantage.
According to Statistics Korea, 213,513 couples tied the knot in 2020, down 10.7 percent and the fewest since the government began tallying the figures in 1981. It was also the sharpest decline seen since the Asian financial crisis in 1997.
But many young couples also defer registering their marriage to maximize their chances of finding a home amid a lack of housing supply. Real estate prices have soared since President Moon Jae-in stepped into office in 2017, making homes even less affordable for young Koreans.
The government does offer affordable housing to young couples, but there is a long waiting list, and double-income couples usually earn more than the eligibility cutoff point. Also, the chances of getting into a newly built apartment actually increase when both husband and wife apply separately instead of as a couple.
One 34-year-old newlywed who lives in Seoul still has not registered his marriage three years after tying the knot. He bought a home before getting married, and so did his wife, which means they would be penalized with higher taxes as multiple-home owners if they registered as a couple.
"Taxes rose for people owning more than one home, and newlywed couples are exempt from transfer taxes for only five years if they sell one of their homes," he said. "I intend to sell one once I see how much further the prices rise."
Another 29-year-old newlywed said, "The government offers special housing benefits to newlyweds up to seven years after they get married, so I intend to register the marriage once I save up more money to move to a bigger home."
Newlywed couples debate the advantages and drawbacks of support for newlyweds on online communities, and many ask when the best time is to register.
Koo Jeong-woo at Sungkyunkwan University said, "The fact that married couples are postponing registering their marriage shows just how bad the housing shortage is, not to mention skyrocketing prices of apartments. The government needs to look at why this phenomenon is happening and come up with solutions."
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