The number of marriages in 2021 was 193,000, the lowest since the tracking of marriages began in 1970. The number of marriages was maintained over the 200,000 range for five years from 2016 but fell to 190,000 due to the impact of population decline and the COVID-19 pandemic. As the number of foreigners entering the country decreased due to the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19), the number of marriages with foreigners also declined sharply.
On March 17th, Statistics Korea released the ‘2021 Marriage and Divorce Statistics’ containing these details. The number of marriages last year was 193,000, down 9.8% (21,000) from the previous year.
The number of marriages by age decreased the most compared to the previous year for men in their early 30s (10.3%) and women in their late 20s (14.4%). Looking at the marriage rate by age, an average of 42.1% of men in their early 30s and 40.8% of women in their early 30s were married.
The average age at which individuals first married was 33.4 years for men and 31.1 years for women, up 0.1 years for men and 0.3 years for women. Compared to 10 years ago, the age of men when they first get married increased by 1.5 years and women by 1.9 years, respectively.
For men, first marriages accounted for 83.7% and remarriage 16.1% of all marriages in South Korea. Compared to the previous year, first marriages decreased by 10.5%, and remarriages decreased by 6.6%, respectively. Among women, first marriages accounted for 81.3% and remarriage 18.5%. First marriages for women decreased by 10.6%, and remarriage decreased by 6.5%, respectively.
The problem is that the rate of decline in the number of marriages is gradually accelerating. It took 19 years (1997-2015) for the annual number of marriages to decrease from 300,000s to 200,000s. However, it took only five years (2016-2020) for the number of marriages to go from 200,000s to the 100,000s. In fact, the rate of decline in the number of marriages is four times faster now.
As the number of marriages decreases, the number of divorces naturally decreases. There were 102,000 divorces in 2021, down 4.5% from the previous year.
An official from the National Statistical Office stated, “The number of marriages and divorces is decreasing due to the decrease in the population, delays in marriage due to the impact of COVID-19, and changes in the perception of marriage."
The number of foreign marriages also plummeted due to the impact of COVID-19. The number of marriages with foreigners last year was 13,000, down 14.6% from the previous year. The number of marriages of Korean men with foreign women decreased by 19.1% from the previous year to 9,000. The number of marriages of Korean women with foreign men was 4,000, down 2.9% from the previous year. As a result, the proportion of marriages with foreigners among all marriages decreased by 0.4 percentage points (points) from the previous year to 6.8%.