Being Single in Korea

Couples are the “in” thing in Korea it seems and there are endless celebrations geared towards them as my lovely daughter reminded me today with her new blog that lists the entire array of couples events (http://experiencesteachingabroad.blogspot.com/2011/04/couple-holidays.html).   There is actually at least one every month, and so being single is not the desired status apparently.
Interestingly, according to a survey by Statistics Korea in 2010, there are 4.03 million single-person households in Korea. That represents about 23.3 percent of the total population. So there are still a lot of singles here. The first official survey of single person households in Korea was in 1975 and it would seem the number of them has increased dramatically since then. As in the west, family life has changed here over the last 30 years, divorce has increased and Korea has the same issues with an aging society as does most of the world.

Being single in a couples world is not a new issue. The first emperor of the Roman Empire, Augustus, was so concerned about the decline of population in his time that he made laws in 18 BCE that protected the married state and made adultery illegal. These laws were actually designed to disadvantage single people.
If you were not married between the age of 25 and 60 for men, and 20 and 50 for women, you were deprived of your right to inherit land. Any single women over the age of 50 was deprived of the right to inherit any property. If they had inherited property they had to hand it over to someone else. A single women, younger than 50, had to pay an additional 1 percent of her income as tax until she married. A widow without children was expected to remarry within a year after divorce and if she did not she was considered to be a single person.

So the one day of the year that is set aside for singles in Korea is April 14th which is referred to as Black Day. Single people spend the day eating black noodles! This I think is a day to stay away from all public eating venues, who really wants to advertise this in a society that just adores the couple!

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