More young Koreans reluctant to get married and have children

Bomi Yoon

By Lee Kyung-min

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A man surnamed Kim in his 20s said he does not want to get married.

“I don’t want to support a family, not now, not ever,” he said. “I don’t want anyone bothering me about how much money I make or constantly nagging me about how I am not good enough.”

He said becoming a sole breadwinner is a lot of pressure, and having a wife who has a job would mean him having to give up control of his life.

“I don’t like either scenario. I will make a living for myself and myself alone is enough,” he said.

A woman surnamed Park in her 30s said she and her husband do not want children.

“We got married two years ago, but having a child is not in the picture,” she said. “It is a huge responsibility for me and my husband physically, financially and psychologically, more for me than him. I have a job and I don’t want to give up a few good years of my life raising children. I’m fine where I am.”

The two are among many young Koreans whose choices are increasingly affecting the country’s ultra-low birth rate.

Data from Statistics Korea released Friday showed that more than half of Koreans in their 20s and 30s said marriage is not necessary. More than two in five married couples said they do not need a child.

The state-run agency’s report a day earlier showed the country’s population will rapidly decline in the next 50 years with a forecast drop to 36.2 million by 2072 from the current 51.7 million. The elderly population — aged 70 and older — is expected to increase to over 10 million in 2033, nearly doubling from 5.92 million in 2022.

The figure is likely to reach over 14.7 million accounting for 40.7 percent of the entire population in 2072.

Friday’s report showed that, in 2022, only 27.5 percent of women in their 20s said a woman “must marry” or that it “is better for a woman to marry,” significantly down from 52.9 percent in 2008.

Similarly, 41.9 percent of the men of the same age group gave the same answer, down from 71.9 percent.

Of people in their 30s, 31.8 percent of women gave the positive answer about marriage, down from 51.5 percent, whereas 48.7 percent of men gave the same answer, down from 69.7 percent.

Lack of financial resources topped the list of reasons for not getting married.

The average number of children that women aged between 30 and 34 gave birth to came to only 1.12 in 2021, compared with 2.76 in 1976.

A total of 47.7 percent had a favorable view of single people in 2020, up from 39.1 percent in 2015. More than 40 percent said cohabitation is not a source of social stigma, up from 25.9 percent in 2015.

Less than one in five said they can socially accept convicted felons. Less than three in ten said sexual minorities were socially acceptable.

Nearly 93 percent said the disabled are socially acceptable, but only 2.7 percent said they are acceptable as a spouse.

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