South Korea: Number of Marriages Hits ‘All-Time Low’ in 2020

A bride waiting in the queue during an wedding ceremony of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, commonly known as the Unification Church, at Cheongshim Peace World Center on August 27, 2018 in Gapyeong-gun, South Korea. Some 4,000 'Moonies', believers of Unification Church, which was named after the …
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

The number of marriages in South Korea plummeted to an all-time low in 2020 owing to changing attitudes toward marriage among younger generations and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Yonhap news agency reported Thursday.

Newly released figures from Statistics Korea show 214,000 couples married in South Korea last year, the lowest such figure since the statistical agency began compiling marriage data in 1970.

The number of marriages in South Korea dropped for the ninth-straight year in 2020, marking a 10.7 percent decrease from 2019.

“The annualized decrease rate is also the steepest since the 18.9 percent tumble recorded in 1971. It also marks the first double-digit decline in 23 years,” Yonhap noted.

Just 51.2 percent of South Koreans aged 13 and older said they felt obligated to marry one day in a survey conducted by the South Korean government in 2020, representing a decrease by 14 percentage points from a similar survey in 2010.

The average age of a South Korean groom in 2020 increased to 33.2 years, up 1.4 years from a decade earlier. Statistics Korea recorded a similar increase in the median age of first-time brides, who were on average 30.8 years-old when they walked down the aisle in 2020, up 1.9 years from 2011.

The number of South Koreans who married foreign spouses in 2020 dropped 35.1 percent from the previous year to 15,000. Such unions accounted for 7.2 percent of all marriages in the East Asian country in 2020.

While the demographics of South Korea’s foreign spouses in 2020 have yet to be released, Vietnamese women made up the majority of foreign brides in South Korea in 2019 at 37.9 percent. They were followed by Chinese women at 20.6 percent and Thai women at 11.6 percent. Men from the U.S. accounted for 24.6 percent of foreign grooms in South Korea in 2019, followed by Chinese men at 23.6 percent, and Vietnamese men at 10.7 percent.

“The number of divorces in South Korea dropped to 107,000 in 2020, “down 3.9 percent from the previous year and marking the first annual drop in three years, with couples married 20 years or longer accounting for the largest portion of the total at 37.2 percent,” Yonhap reported on March 18.

South Korea’s population fell for the first time in its history in 2020 along with its birth rate, signaling the country – Asia’s fourth-largest economy – may face serious economic and cultural changes in the coming years.

The population of South Korea was 51,829,023 as of December 31, 2020, marking a decrease of 20,838 from the end of 2019, census data released by South Korea’s Ministry of Interior and Safety on January 3 revealed.

South Korea also reported 275,815 births in 2020, down 10.65 percent from 2019.

“Amid the rapidly declining birth rate, the government needs to undertake fundamental changes to its relevant policies,” South Korea’s interior ministry said on January 3.


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