In Korea, 1 in 3 couples that tie the knot gets divorced. According to figures from the Supreme Court, there were 329,220 marriages and 114,781 divorces in 2012. The annual numbers have remained similar over the past decade.
A recent study by a government-funded legal aid organization showed that the country’s divorce rate ― the number of divorces for every 1,000 people ― reached 2.72 in the 2000s, up more than 13-fold from the figure in the 1950s. The rate stood at 2.3 in 2012.
The steep rise in Korea’s divorce rate is attributed in general to changes in people’s perceptions and attitudes toward marriage and divorce. The days when housewives would resign themselves to their husbands’ extramarital affairs, abusive treatment and indifference are long gone.
The revision of laws in favor of female spouses has also made them more active in taking steps towards divorce. The proportion of wives who received half of matrimonial property after a divorce increased from 5.4 percent in 1998 to 9.4 percent in 2005, and further to 22.5 percent in 2012. In a related phenomenon, the number of divorces among couples married for more than 20 years has risen continuously, accounting for more than a quarter of the total number in 2012.
If this trend is inevitable and irreversible amid changing social conditions and individual perceptions, as noted by many experts, couples that have decided to separate should be given more advice on how to stay calm and rational during the divorce process.
Avoiding emotional escalation would help divorcees maintain a functional relationship with their former spouse. Confrontations over the custody of children seem to have become more intense, as couples now usually have only one or two kids. Separated parents should exercise more wisdom in settling matters related to their children.
As more Koreans marry foreign spouses, the rate of divorce between multicultural couples has also been on a steady rise. The number of divorces of these couples increased from 4,151 in 2005 to 10,887 in 2012. In these cases, it is common that both parents ― usually Korean men and younger wives mostly from Southeast Asia ― try to avoid the responsibility of raising their children.
More attention and care need to be given to children from divorced multicultural couples, who should grow up to become fully participating members of our society.