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More women freeze their eggs

May 15,2017
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An employee at the Cha Fertility Center in Seoul Station’s 37 Social Bio Bank manages frozen eggs. Recent data showed that more women are freezing their eggs as more Koreans delay marriage and pregnancy. [JOONGANG ILBO]
Lee Jung-min, a 36-year-old office worker, is thinking about freezing her eggs. She started considering it after seeing her friends having a hard time getting pregnant after marrying later in life. “I don’t have a plan of getting married anytime soon but I’m planning on visiting a hospital since it will be better to freeze eggs earlier,” she said.

As more Koreans delay marriage, recent data showed that more women are freezing eggs as well. And there are more marriages in the country where brides are older than the grooms.

According to Statistics Korea, the average age of Korean grooms was 32.8 and for brides it was 30.1 in 2015. This was the first time that the age of newlywed brides surpassed 30 in the country.

In the past, most people who froze eggs were undergoing medical treatments and they wanted to preserve their fertility. But now more are doing so to increase the possibility of future pregnancies.

The Cha Fertility Center at Seoul Station’s 37 Social Bio Bank said the number of eggs from single women that were stored rose from about 100 in 2011 to 1,786 last year. The biggest reason for clients to freeze eggs was to be prepared for late marriage; they were followed by those planning in vitro fertilization.

In Korea, many fertility centers run egg banks. It costs about 2.5 million won ($2,207) to store an egg. “The purpose of freezing eggs is more like insurance,” said Kim Ja-yeon, a gynecologist at Cha Fertility Center. “Eggs are very sensitive to aging so it is best for women to freeze eggs when they are between 34 and 37.”

One of the other social trends that have changed family dynamics is that more brides are older than grooms. Marriages where brides are older numbered 32,600 in 2006 but rose 11 percent to 36,200 last year. Marriages where grooms are older, on the other hand, fell 16 percent from 183,400 to 149,800 in the same period, the government said.

“In the past men took care of the financial part, while women focused on housework and raising children, but trends are changing nowadays as both women and men are working at the same time,” said Kim Young-ran, a researcher at Korean Women’s Development Institute. “More men like to marry older women who are well-educated and have good jobs to reduce the financial burden.”

Those couples are spending more for their weddings as well. According to Lotte Department Store’s Wedding Members, couples who spent more than 100 million won ($88.7 million) on their weddings rose 42.8 percent in 2016 when compared to the previous year. The total amount of spending also rose 58 percent.

Couples getting married late also prefer smaller or private weddings. Hotels are unveiling wedding ceremony products to meet the demand. The Plaza Hotel Seoul in Jung District, central Seoul, devised a program called Romantic Greenery for 20 to 80 guests. After the program was announced, the hotel said the reservations and the number of people contacting them rose 15 percent when compared to the previous year.

The Shilla Jeju started “Small Boutique Wedding” in March. The program allows couples to have wedding ceremonies with just 30 guests. It costs about 3 million won for floral decorations and 100,000 won per guest. A ceremony with 30 guests will cost about 6 million won. “Many of people asking for the program are those in their mid- to late-30s,” said Kim Soo-bin, a manager at the hotel.

Due to late marriages and pregnancy, the anti-aging market is also growing rapidly. According to a report recently released by SK Securities, the local anti-aging market size was 20 trillion won last year. The firm projected it to expand to about 38 trillion won by 2020. This is because not only people in their 20s and 30s but those in their 40s and 50s with children are visiting plastic surgeons and dermatologists.

According to CNP Skin Laser Clinic’s survey of 237 mothers in their 30s and 40s, 34 percent of them said they are most stressed out about meetings with other parents with children at the same school.

“Anti-aging has become the popular trend among parents in their 40s,” said Dr. Park Yeon-ho.


BY KIM SUNG-HEE [kim.youngnam@joongang.co.kr]