Cohabiting Households on the Rise

  • By Hwang Ji-yoon

    August 13, 2022 08:43

    Nearly half a million Korean households now consist of friends and lovers rather than traditional families as the country's social fabric changes. 
    According to the 2021 census, 1.02 million people were members of 472,660 non-family households, which accounted for around two percent of all households.
    Households composed of immediate family members still accounted for 64.4 percent of the total 22 million households last year, but that was down 0.4 percent from the year before. But non-family households increased 11.6 percent, while one-person households grew 7.9 percent. 
    It seems that the rising number of singles contributed to the rapid growth of non-family households as more and more people began to cohabit with friends or unmarried partners to save money, according to Prof. Chung Ick-joong at Ewha Womans University.
    One 25-year-old university student who lives in Seoul's Seongbuk District has been sharing a small flat with a friend since March 2019. The flat costs W500,000 a month in rent plus a W10 million deposit (US$1=W1,302). The flatmates pitch in half each. 
    Prof. Kim Seok-ho at Seoul National University said, "Young people are helping each other out and forming temporary family units." 
    The Korean Women's Development Institute polled 2,000 people aged 18 to 69 across the country last year and found that 62.7 percent supported expanding the concept of the family unit to include unmarried cohabiting couples. Also, 87 percent of the respondents said they expected the number of unmarried couples to increase in the future, while 82 percent forecast the number of flatshares will grow.
    The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family in April promised to expand the legal concept of the family to include cohabiting couples, foster families and senior citizens living together to care for each other and come up with more support for them. But there has been little progress for the matter.
    Shin Kyung-ah at Hallym University said, "The increase in non-family households is a global trend. The very concept of the family is changing and laws need to change apace to accommodate not only young people but all generations."  
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