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Teenagers souring on marriage: survey

Percentage of teens who believe marriage a must plummets to 29.5%

By Choi Jeong-yoon

Published : Feb. 14, 2024 - 15:46

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Teenagers in South Korea are becoming less keen to get married, while more than half believe that having children out of wedlock is acceptable, a study suggested Wednesday.

According to the National Youth Policy Institute's recent research on teenagers' values conducted among some 7,718 students from elementary school to high school last year, 29.5 percent agreed that "marriage is a must."

This is less than half the percentage 11 years ago, compared to 2012, when 73.2 percent agreed that marriage is a must factor in life.

The drop was more pronounced among girls than boys, with a decline of over 44 percentage points: Only 18.8 percent of respondents said that marriage was necessary.

"The value that marriage is an individual's 'choice' rather than a 'necessity' has spread among teens, especially among female students," a researcher explained.

Meanwhile, while only 19.8 percent of the respondents agreed that "marriage is a requirement to have children," over 60 percent agreed that "it is possible to have children without marriage," indicating that young people no longer equate marriage with childbirth.

Diverse forms of marriage and family seemed to have been widely accepted among Korean teens, as 8 out of 10 believed that "men and women can live together without marriage." 91.4 percent said "they could marry foreigners," while notably, 52 percent of teens agreed that same-sex marriage should be allowed.

61.4 percent of youths claimed that robotic humans and robotic pets can be part of a family while 89.4 percent said that adoption was an option.

When it comes to choosing a spouse, 82.0 percent (multiple responses) said "personality" was the most important factor.

"The survey shows that adolescents no longer hold traditional values, which means that family and reproductive policies need to be fundamentally transformed," the researchers analyzed.

"The majority's agreement on non-marital partnerships and same-sex marriage shows that it is time to redefine the scope of family in our society," the researchers said. "A universal family policy should be established to provide equal support to all families, like in Europe, where non-discriminatory maternity and child care support programs are in place."