South Korean marriages drop 40% in a decade


Marriages in South Korea have plummeted by 40% over the past 10 years, leading to significant consequences for the country’s birth rate.

Zoom in: South Korea witnessed only 193,673 marriages in 2023, marking a 40% drop from 322,807 recorded in 2013, according to government data released on Sunday. This decline has been consistent over the past 11 years, with only a slight increase observed in 2022 due to postponed weddings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What caused this: Financial constraints, particularly related to wedding expenses and housing, have emerged as the primary deterrents to marriage. Data shows that 32.7% of people in their 20s and 33.7% of people in their 30s had cited lack of funds as the main reason for not marrying. Additionally, changing perceptions toward marriage among teenagers contribute to the decline, with only 15.3% considering marriage a necessity in 2022, down from 20.3% a decade ago.

Consequences: The plummeting number of marriages has consequently led to a sharp decline in birth rates. In 2023, only 91,700 second births were recorded — the first time the number fell below 100,000. Meanwhile, South Korea’s total fertility rate reached an all-time low of 0.72 in 2023, far below the replacement level of 2.1 required for population stability. This decline poses challenges for the country’s demographic structure and economic future.

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The big picture: The declining trend in marriages and birth rates signals broader societal shifts in South Korea. With fewer people opting for marriage and childbirth, there are concerns about the sustainability of social welfare systems and economic growth.

The government faces the challenge of addressing underlying issues toward marriage to reverse this trend. In December, President Yoon Suk-yeol called for “extraordinary determination” to address the situation.

Japan is facing similar problems. There, the government has even turned to AI for help.

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