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Fewer women now see marriage as essential

July 07,2017
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Marriage is nowhere in the near future for 32-year-old Kim, who wished to be identified only by her surname.

“I feel like now is the prime time to really build my career,” said Kim, who has been working for the past decade.

“I don’t think getting married at this point of my life would actually benefit me. I’m not determined to stay single for the rest of my life, but at the same time, I don’t want to be too hasty about it.”

Kim represents a growing trend among single Korean women who believe that marriage is not essential. A recent study jointly conducted by Statistics Korea and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family showed only 31 percent of single women felt putting a ring on their finger was a must, down from 46.8 percent six years ago. The study also showed that more single women are now open to the thought of getting divorced.

These attitudes are reflected in behavior, as well. The number of marriages last year was 281,600, down from 327,100 in 2012.

“Women these days have come to show more awareness about gender equality,” said Lee Na-young, a sociology professor at Chung-Ang University in Seoul. “But in Korean society’s traditional frame of marriage, signs of patriarchy still linger, which is why women are deciding not to get married at all.”

Choi Hye-rin, 26, who describes herself as a vegan-cum-feminist, says she has been preparing to launch a social group of fellow women who are all also vegan, feminist and single. Membership requires all three qualifications, she said.

“I’m trying to form a women’s group where members can support each other and rage against social injustice,” said Choi, adding that her mission with the group is to “build a sense of bonding that feels stronger than family.”

Some companies are taking the opportunity to capitalize on the trend. The cosmetic brand SK-ll recently launched a campaign titled “I Never Expire,” which it says it hopes will encourage female consumers to live life with confidence, without succumbing to the social pressures to marry at a certain age.

Han Hye-yeon, a local celebrity stylist, garnered a wave of support from female fans last month when she appeared on the JTBC talk show “Non-Summit” and urged singles not to be ashamed about their status, saying, “Age doesn’t have an expiration date.”

BY HONG SANG-JI [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]