2003 September 22 Monday
South Korea Undergoing Rapid Social Transformation

The divorce rate in South Korea is rapidly rising.

Still anchored in Confucian values of family and patriarchy, South Korea is fast becoming an open, Westernized society with the world's highest concentration of Internet broadband users, a pop culture that has recently been breaking taboos left and right, and living patterns increasingly focusing on individual satisfaction.

Social changes that took decades in the West or Japan, sociologists here like to point out, are occurring here in a matter of years. In the last decade, South Korea's divorce rate swelled 250 percent, in keeping with women's rising social status.

A country that industrializes rapidly will be affected by the changing incentives that industrialization creates. At the same time, the people will absorb ideas from already industrialized countries more rapidly because of movies and other means of transmitting mass culture. Absent theocratic rule that suppresses social changes the changes which are occurring in South Korea seem inevitable for any country that fully industrializes.

South Korea has a higher divorce rate than the European Union. However, lumping all the countries of the EU together all too frequently obscures a wide range of variations. Also, the EU might have a lower divorce rate due to higher rates of unmarried cohabitation.

In 2001, the rate was 2.8, which was above the European Union's average of 1.8 and Japan's 2.3, though below the United States' rate of 4.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2003 September 22 12:39 PM  Korea

razib said at September 23, 2003 12:43 AM:

the point about unmarried cohabitation is probably partly correct-but if i remember right, that is most common on northern europe, while the catholic countries of southern europe + greece still have the lowest divorce rates....

mkim said at March 2, 2005 5:36 PM:

Korea has joined the rank of nations subscribing to the individualism fancy.
I can understand divorce taking place because of spousal or children abuse, extramarital affairs, etc. but I think all this upward spiral in divorce rate is result of people simply unable to give up their own selfish desires. I've been to Korea the people are incredibly materialistic worshipping anything made by the Europeans, particularly French and Italian. Vanity oh vanity.. the fools.

Fredric Williams said at October 5, 2005 8:07 PM:

In South Korea, I believe divorce is increasingly common because marriages here often are not based on love or even strong attraction between people. They are arranged by families based on economics, and a philosophy that anyone with proper education, family, and job is suitable as a husband. Couples often barely know each other when they marry.

This sets the stage for infidelity (while succumbing to social pressure to remain married) and, when social pressure is reduced or individual desires given more freedom, it leads to divorce.

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