More and more Korean men stay single, with the latest statistics showing that 1.74 million men in their 30s live alone. That means more than half of the 3.42 million men in that age group are not married, up from just 19 percent two decades ago.
A tough job market and soaring housing prices are often cited as the social drivers of the trend, but not everyone thinks that Koreans are solely motivated by these economic factors.
Matchmakers see things differently. They say more and more men with stellar academic backgrounds and high salaries are simply choosing to remain single even if they could perfectly well afford a family.
In 2015, 18.2 percent of men in their 30s with only high school diplomas were single, a proportion that was more or less unchanged at 19 percent last year. Among those who did not finish high school, the figure also remained little changed at slightly under 11 percent.
But over the five years it shot up from 20.2 percent to 23.1 percent for those with university degrees and from 24.3 percent to 27.3 percent among those with vocational college qualifications.
“There has been a sharp increase in successful men in their 30s over the past two to three years who are putting off marriage because they haven’t found a woman who has stolen their heart,” a matchmaker said.
One lawyer in his late 30s who has a cat, goes surfing at weekends and owns an apartment in the affluent Jamsil area of southern Seoul said, “My parents have arranged many dates for me, but I don’t think I should marry a woman simply to satisfy my parents and continue the bloodline.”
An increasing tendency to choose a woman based primarily on her looks is also to blame. “Twenty years ago, men would marry women based on their family backgrounds and compatible personalities,” the matchmaker explains. “But men these days ask me to introduce them to beautiful women even if they’re not too picky about other conditions.”
Another matchmaker said, “More and more men are placing top priority on looks when it comes to choosing their future brides, because there are so many images in the media. But that’s not realistic, which is making it tougher for men to find compatible mates.”
But others are simply comfortable alone. Lee Woong-jin at matchmaker Sunoo said, “Twenty years ago, men in their 30s considered themselves old and felt a sense of urgency, but these days they often think that they have plenty of time.”
The older generation might view them as selfish, but the younger generation does not feel that way. One 37-year-old office worker in Gyeonggi Province said, “I have six friends from high school and four of them, including myself, are single. I am not unique.”
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