The Korea Herald


Marriages in Korea fall by 40% within a decade

By No Kyung-min

Published : March 3, 2024 - 14:10

    • Link copied

(Getty Images) (Getty Images)

In another piece of grim news underscoring South Korea's looming demographic crisis, the number of marriages in 2023 fell by 40 percent compared to the level recorded a decade ago, government statistics revealed Sunday.

According to Statistics Korea, an estimated 193,673 couples tied the knot last year, a drop of 40 percent compared to the 322,807 couples who got married in 2013.

From a year ago, however, the 2023 figure marks a 1 percent increase, or 1,983 more marriages. In 2022, marriages plummeted to a record low of 191,690. The decline in the number of marriages has persisted for 11 years, from 2012 to 2022.

The marriage data follows closely on the heels of the news that the nation's fertility rate -- the average number of children a woman is expected to have during her lifetime -- dropped to a record low of 0.72 last year.

Behind the 40 percent drop in marriages within a decade are shifting social norms, another report released by Statistics Korea showed.

The report revealed that among those aged between 19 to 34 in 2022, approximately 1 out of 3 Koreans held positive views on getting married. This represents a shift from 2012 when more than half of them (56.5 percent) held positive sentiments toward marriage.

By gender, 43.8 percent of men expressed a positive view, while the corresponding figure for females reached 28 percent, down from 66.1 percent and 46.9 percent, respectively.

In terms of age groups, there has been a notable shift among Koreans in their 20s away from marriage. The percentage of marriages in the age group 25 to 29 dropped from 59.5 percent in 2012 to 36.1 percent in 2022. Meanwhile, those aged 30 to 34 showed the highest preference for marriage at 39.2 percent, down from 54.3 percent a decade ago.

For young Koreans, the most significant impediment to marriage was money.

The highest percentage of respondents at 33.7 percent cited a lack of financial resources as the primary obstacle to marriage, followed by 17.3 percent who expressed a lack of necessity for marriage. Other challenges included concerns about the burdens of childbirth and childrearing at 11 percent, and unstable employment conditions at 10.2 percent.

The country recorded 230,000 newborns last year, reflecting a 7.7 percent decrease from the previous year's figure of 249,186. It represents a 47.3 percent decline in comparison to a decade before when the number of newborns stood at 436,455.

Meanwhile, the drop in the fertility rate to 0.72 last year marked the sixth consecutive year with a fertility rate below 1, dating back to 2018, according to Statistics Korea on Thursday. Korea's fertility rate was already significantly below the 2.1 level considered necessary to maintain a stable population.

The quarterly figure fell to a shocking 0.65, during the final three months of 2023, the data showed. The statistics agency anticipates the yearly figure to decline to 0.68 this year.