Marriages in South Korea rise for first time in 12 years in 2023

SEOUL, March 19: The number of marriages in South Korea rose for the first time in more than a decade, but it hovered below the 200,000 level for three years in a row, data showed Tuesday.

According to Yonhap news agency, around 194,000 couples tied the knot in South Korea last year, up one  per cent from a year earlier, according to the data from Statistics Korea.

It marked the first time since 2011 that the country logged an on-year increase in the number of marriages.

In 2022, the country witnessed a record low ever of 192,000 marriages. The number of marriages was on a gradual decline over the past decades from 435,000 cases in 1996 to below 400,000 in 1997 and below 200,000 in 2021.

“Last year’s increase came as more couples held weddings from the second half of 2022 through the first half of 2023 after delaying their marriages during the earlier stages of the COVID-19 pandemic,” an agency official said.

The number of South Koreans marrying foreign spouses surged 18.3 percent on-year to 20,000 in 2022, which means that 1 out of every 10 marriages last year was an international marriage.

The average age for men getting married for the first time reached an all-time high of 34 in 2023, up 0.3 from a year earlier, and that of brides also rose by 0.2 years to a new record of 31.5.

The number of couples getting divorced lost 0.9 percent on-year to 92,000, the fourth consecutive yearly fall.

The number of international couples getting divorced, however, advanced 5.1 percent on-year to come to 6,000 cases.

The latest tally came amid the country’s ultra-low childbirths.

South Korea’s total fertility rate, which is the average number of expected births from a woman in her lifetime, fell to a record quarterly low of 0.65 in the fourth quarter of 2023.

The number of babies born in the country shed 7.7 percent on-year to an all-time low of 229,970 in 2023.

The country’s birthrate has been on a constant decline over the past years, falling below the 400,000 mark for the first time ever in 2017, below 300,000 in 2020 and under 250,000 in 2022.

Experts say the falling number of marriages has an impact on birthrates as out-of-wedlock births are quite rare in South Korea.

More than 70 percent of births in 2022 occurred within five years of marriage, data showed.