Sunday, July 03, 2011

Individualism Taking Root in Korea

The strength of personal networks based on regional and school ties, which traditionally lie at the core of the Korean way of building relationships, is dwindling, according to recent surveys that suggest individualism is on the rise in Korean society.
According to a nationwide poll carried out by LG Economic Research Institute on 1,800 people on June 13, 36.4 percent of the respondents prioritized the individual over the organization. Roughly the same amount, or 36.8 percent, did not agree that actions undertaken for the public good should limit or infringe upon their own rights.
Such a shift in perspective is even more evident among university students. It is not uncommon to see students eating alone at university cafeterias, and there seems to be a growing trend to befriend less people in the same department or academic year.
"There are more advantages to eating alone, as you can save money and time," said one 22-year-old student, voicing the new me-first ethos of the younger generation.
In a poll of 528 university students by job search portal Incruit last year, 34.5 percent considered themselves as "outsiders" who rarely socialize with their classmates or friends. 

More People Remain Single for Life

More than half of the inhabitants of Seoul between the ages of 30 and 34 are unmarried. According to research by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, there were 431,847 singles between 30 to 34 in the capital as of last year, accounting for 50.4 percent of its population. 
Among the total population of Seoul in their 30s, 3.8 percent were unmarried. The reason is because they are putting off marriage due to difficulties finding jobs, a lack of earning power or simply because they do not want to get married.

Take the example of a 52-year-old single woman who works at a state-run company, one of many women in her age with good jobs and incomes. She went on a lot of blind dates when she was in her 20s, but nobody matched her expectations, and as she climbed the corporate ladder, her expectations rose, narrowing the pool of candidates. When she reached 50, she gave up looking for a husband.

According to the 2010 census report, there were 239,707 unmarried people in their 50s (135,246 men and 104,461 women). That marks a 3.9-fold increase from 10 years ago when there were 61,176. Still, only one out of every 100 people over 50 has never been married. But considering the latest data on the number of singles in their 40s, there is a strong chance that the number of people who remain single for life will increase.

One out of every 10 people between 40 and 44 is single, as is one out of every 20 between 45 and 49. "We are seeing more men with temporary jobs, and income levels among women are rising, which prompts more people to avoid marriage," said Cho Nam-hoon, a chair professor at Hanyang University. “We’re going to see a faster growth in the number of people who stay single for life.”

Among unmarried people in their 50s, men with little education tended to have a problem finding spouses, while highly educated women have the same problem. Among men with only an elementary education, 2.8 percent are single, while the ratio is 1.1 percent each for master's degree and PhD holders.

Among women with only an elementary education, 1.36 percent are unmarried, while the ratio is 9.7 percent for master's degree holders and 14.7 percent for those with doctoral degrees.

Many male singles earn low wages and have only elementary or junior high school educations. They risk living in poverty when they grow old. Around half the people who stay single for life live by themselves with no other family member to depend on.