A drop in birth rates results in fewer marriages and reduced divorces, govt data shows
South Koreans wait in a line to buy face masks at a retail store in the southeastern city of Daegu on Feb. 25, 2020. The country has been grappling with low birth rates over the years. (Photo: Jung Yeon-je/AFP)
Less than 200,000 marriages were registered in South Korea in 2022, the lowest since 1970 when the country began recording demographic data, says the government.
The country recorded 191,690 marriages in 2022, down by 0.4 percent from 192,507 marriages in 2021, the Korea Herald reported on March 16 referring to data from the Korea Statistical Information Service.
The slump in marriages raises more concerns as the country reported in November 2021 that the population was 51.74 million, a drop of 0.2 percent or 91,000 persons from 2020.
In February, the government reported South Korea broke its own record of the lowest birth rates in the world. The total fertility rate, the average number of expected babies per South Korean woman during her reproductive age, dropped to 0.78 in 2022, down from 0.81 in 2021.
The capital city, Seoul, recorded the lowest rate with 0.59.
Lim Young-il, head of the Population Census Division at the agency pointed out that the population decline and the changes in South Koreans’ attitude towards marriage are the contributing factors to the low numbers.
"The number of marriages has decreased partly due to the constant decline of the population aged between 25 and 49," Lim said adding that another reason was the “changing perception of marriage."
The data showed that in 2022 the average age of first-time brides was 31.3 years up by 0.2 years and the age of grooms was 33.7 years up by 0.4 years in comparison to 2021.
Among the couples who married for the first time, 19.4 percent of partnerships were between an older female and a young male.
However, the marital partnerships between an older male and a young female had the major share of 64.4 percent, whereas 16.2 percent were of the same age.
The state data also showed that the number of international marriages has shown an increase since the Covid-19 travel restrictions were lifted.
In 2022, 16,666 marriages were between South Koreans and foreign nationals, which was an increase of 21.4 percent in comparison to 13,102 marriages in 2021.
South Korea has seen a reduced number of divorces because of the reduced number of marriages.
"The number of divorces dropped as the number of marriages, the precondition for divorce, declined," Lim explained.
In 2022, the number of divorces in the country hit its lowest mark in 25 years with 93,232 cases. In 2021, the country saw 101,673 divorces.
The constant fall in birth rates and a rapidly rising elderly population alarmed the government and civil society groups and prompted actions from the Catholic Church.
The Seoul Archdiocese in October 2022 launched a campaign that among other things supports pregnant women and opposes abortion.
The campaign involves various support groups that oppose abortion and promote the protection of unborn children.
The Korean Church has long campaigned for the protection of life and opposed abortion based on the Catholic Church’s stance on the “sacredness of life” which teaches that human life must be protected "from the very moment of conception."
In 2018, Korean bishops launched an anti-abortion petition that gained one million signatures. The Church has also been organizing March for Life, a pro-life rally campaign in various parts of the country to oppose abortion.
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