Amid changing social norms, more Koreans tie the knot at an older age
The number of marriages in Korea dropped to an all-time low in 2022, government data showed on Thursday.
According to a report shared by Statistics Korea, the number of Koreans getting married came to a record low of 192,000 last year, down 0.4 percent on-year.
It marked the lowest reading since 1970, when the government statistics agency first began compiling the data, and is the 11th straight year the figure has decreased.
Though it was predicted the number of marriages would go up last year with the lifting of pandemic restrictions on public events such as wedding ceremonies, the downward trend has continued.
The number of marriages in Korea last year is half the figure recorded some 25 years ago.
In 1996, 435,000 couples tied the knot. A decade later, the number fell to the 200,000 range with 282,000 marriages in 2016.
"The number of marriages has decreased partly due to the constant decline of the population aged between 25 and 49," Lim Young-il, head of the Population Census Division at Statistics Korea, said at a press briefing held Thursday. "Another reason is from the changing perception of marriage."
The statistics agency projected the low number of marriages to affect the low fertility rate in the future.
Previous data released by the agency showed South Korea's total fertility rate hit an all-time low last year, falling to 0.78 in 2022.
While less people are getting married, more are getting married at an older age.
The average marrying age of first-time brides stood at 31.3 years, up 0.2 year from the previous year. The age for grooms gained 0.4 year on-year to 33.7.
Among first-time married couples, 19.4 percent were partnerships between an older female and younger male. Older male-younger female partnerships took up the majority at 64.4 percent, while 16.2 percent were same-age couples.
Korea also saw more international marriages last year.
A total of some 17,000 marriages were partnerships between Korean and foreign nationals, marking a 27.2 percent increase from the year before.
The statistics agency assessed that the number of international marriages increased as traveling restrictions eased after the COVID-19 pandemic.
With fewer marriages, Korea has been seeing fewer divorces, too.
The overall number of divorces came to a 25-year low last year, coming in at 93,000, an 8.3 percent decrease on-year.
The average age for males and females going through a divorce both decreased on-year from 50.1 to 49.9 for men, and from 46.7 to 46.6 for women, last year.
"The number of divorces dropped as the number of marriages, the precondition for divorce, declined," Lim explained.
The average period of marriage before a divorce came to 17 years last year, falling by 3.6 months on-year.
Couples who were married for less than five years accounted for the largest portion of the total divorces at 18.6 percent, followed by those married for five to nine years at 18 percent and those married for more than 30 years at 16.9 percent.