Marriages Dwindle as Pandemic Scuppers Wedding Plans

  • By Lee Ki-hun

    March 19, 2021 09:58

    Only 214,000 couples tied the knot last year, down more than 10 percent from the year before and an all-time low. The number of marriages declined for the ninth year in a row.

    The figure is about a half the number in 1996, when marriages peaked at 435,000, and means the country's birthrate, which is already the lowest in the world, will drop further.

    The number of marriages per 1,000 population also hit a record low at 4.2 last year, down 0.5. It stood at 10 in the 1980s and seven until the mid-2000s.

    One in five or 18.5 percent of brides were older than their grooms, but 65.3 percent of grooms were older than their brides and 16.2 percent were of the same age. The average age of first-time marriage is also rising, hitting 33.2 years for men and 30.9 years for women, up 1.4 years and 1.9 years from a decade ago.

    Kim Soo-young of Statistics Korea said, "Attitudes to marriage is changing and fewer people want to get married. More people are postponing marriage or deciding not to get married at all due to financial difficulties" such as exorbitant housing costs.

    "Many other people delayed or canceled their wedding due to the coronavirus pandemic," she added.

    The pandemic also scuppered many international marriages. Only some 15,000 Koreans married foreigners last year, down 35 percent from a year earlier.

    Most were Korean men who married Vietnamese women at 28.3 percent, followed by Chinese (22.7 percent) and Thai women (15.6 percent). Korean women mostly married American men with 26 percent, followed by Chinese (22.2 percent) and Vietnamese (11.8 percent).

    But divorces also dwindled. Some 107,000 couples got divorced last year, down 3.9 percent from a year earlier. The number of couples who got divorced after living together for more than 20 years increased 3.2 percent.

    The average marriage of divorced couples had lasted 16.7 years, up 3.7 years from a decade earlier. This suggests that more couples sought divorce after living together for a long time rather than changing their minds after just a few years.

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