3 in 10 divorces happen after 20 years of marriage

By Ock Hyun-ju
  • Published : Sept 21, 2017 - 18:10
  • Updated : Sept 21, 2017 - 18:10
Three out of 10 divorced couples in South Korea last year were married for at least 20 years, setting a new record in “gray divorces,” a judicial yearbook showed Wednesday.

According to 2017 Judicial Yearbook released by the Supreme Court, 32,594 couples got a divorce after living together for more than 20 years, accounting for 30.4 percent of all the divorces last year.

The proportion of divorces accounted for by couples who have lived together for more than 20 years has been gradually increasing, from 26.4 percent in 2012 to 29.9 percent in 2015. 


The number of couples who divorced after being married for less than five years was 24,597, standing at 22.9 percent of the total.

“There could be many reasons, such as an increase in women’s economic status which made them lead an independent life,” Choi Yong-keun, a lawyer specializing in divorce, told The Korea Herald.

The yearbook showed that more women in divorced couples had a job and income, indicating that they were in better financial shape when they decided to leave their partners. The employment rate for women in 2016 was 56.2 percent, up 7.3 percent from 2007.

Some 40 percent of female divorcees were out of work, students or doing household tasks last year. The proportion has gradually dropped from 61 percent in 2007.

Changed public perception of marriages and divorces also appears to be a key factor.

“Divorce is no longer regarded as a shame as it used to be in the past,” Choi said.

In South Korea, there has been a long-held stigma associated with divorce, viewing it a disgrace and a failure in life. There has been a tendency that couples would stay together despite problems for the sake of their children.

The age of couples’ children also seemingly affected the decision on whether to get a divorce, the report showed.

Among divorced couples, 52.1 percent had no underage children, followed by those who had one underage child at 25.6 percent and two at 18.8 percent. Only 3.5 percent had more than three underage children.

As for reasons for a divorce, the biggest factor was differences in their personalities (45.2 percent), followed by financial problems (10.2 percent), family troubles (7.4 percent), partner’s cheating (7 percent) and physical and mental abuse (3.6 percent).

Most of the couples, or 82.2 percent, got a divorce through a consensus, while 17.7 percent went through court proceedings to break up with their partners.

By Ock Hyun-ju (