Marriages in South Korea Rise Slightly after Years of Decrease

    20 March 2024

    The number of marriages in South Korea rose in 2023 for the first time in more than ten years.

    The increase came after the pandemic which forced some couples to delay marriage plans. But the data did not point to a continued increase in the aging country.

    The small rise in marriages last year comes as its fertility rate continued to decrease. South Korea's fertility rate, or the average number of children born per woman, is already the world's lowest. It is falling because women are concerned about their careers, the cost of raising children, or are deciding not to have babies.

    FILE - A couple poses for their wedding photos in Seoul, Korea on June 22, 2006. (REUTERS)
    FILE - A couple poses for their wedding photos in Seoul, Korea on June 22, 2006. (REUTERS)

    Government data showed a total of 193,657 couples got married last year. That is up 1.0 percent from 191,690 a year earlier. It is the first increase since 2011.

    That compares with a 0.4 percent drop in 2022. That was when South Korea started to ease restrictions on social gatherings put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions saw the number of marriages decrease 9.8 percent in 2021 and 10.7 percent in 2020.

    The 2023 number of marriages, however, remains well below the 239,159 marriages seen in 2019. And that compares to a yearly number of more than 320,000 recorded 10 years earlier.

    A government official said that couples delaying marriage was a reason for more marriages in the second half of 2022 and the first half of 2023.

    "In the second half of 2023, however, marriages fell year-on-year, indicating that people who had been delaying marriage due to COVID-19 have now mostly got married," the official told reporters.

    The 2023 increase was also well below the increases seen in nearby China. Marriages in China rose 12.4 percent last year. That happened as more couples got married after delays caused by the pandemic.

    Most South Koreans say high housing costs are the biggest reason for getting married. Many also see marriage as the first step before having a baby in the Asian country.

    The Yonhap news agency reported a recent study of 500 South Koreans aged between 19 and 23. It showed that 50.4 percent of those asked did not plan on getting married or having children.

    The government says it will take "extraordinary measure" to deal the low birth rate. Political parties are promising public housing and easier loans for young South Koreans ahead of the April legislative election.

    Marriages with a foreign national greatly increased for a second year, increasing 18.3 percent to 19,717.

    I'm Gregory Stachel.

    Jihoon Lee reported this story for Reuters. Gregory Stachel adapted it for VOA Learning English.


    Words in This Story

    couple n. two people who are married or who have a romantic or sexual relationship

    fertility n. the ability to produce young

    indicate – v. to show (something)

    extraordinary – adj. very different from what is normal or ordinary