May 26, 2022 12:52
A growing number of elderly couples are getting divorced. In the past, they used to stay together despite conflict for the sake of the family, but now more elderly people are prioritizing personal happiness.
According to Statistics Korea, splits among couples who were married for more than 30 years accounted for 17.6 percent of all divorces last year, up from just seven percent a decade ago.
Total divorces decreased from 114,300 to 101,700 over the period, but divorces among senior citizens increased from 7,900 to 17,900.
One woman in her 70s looked for a counseling after decades of verbal abuse from her husband. She said she had no choice but to endure the abuse, since her husband had control over the household's finances. "My health has deteriorated recently yet I still have to care for my husband," she said. "I want to go my separate way now and get some peace."
Another factor is increasing understanding from their children. A counselor at the Korea Legal Aid Center for Family Relations said, "Even until the 2000s, many children were unwilling to accept their parents' divorce. But now there's an increasing perception that individual rights outweigh family unity and seven out of every 10 elderly people who come for counseling say they have the support of their children."
The Institute for Social Development and Policy Research at Seoul National University polled 1,786 people on the question, and six out of 10 respondents in their 20s and 30s said they can understand why elderly couples split up.
That was especially true among women, with 70.8 percent in their 20s and 67.9 percent in their 30s compared to 50.6 percent and 55.3 percent of their male peers.
Women are also encouraged to go their own way by a more favorable legal climate. Many courts now recognize a wife's household labor in contributing to the couple's accumulation of wealth, which helps split their assets more equally. A growing number of housewives have been awarded half their husbands' pension.
Jeon Young-soo at Hanyang University said, "As the average lifespan increases, skepticism about the traditional need to maintain a patriarchal family structure is growing."
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