South Korea economic crisis pinned on single women


27 Jul 2019

What is South Korea's #NoMarriage movement all about

South Korea is looking at an economic crisis and they have narrowed down the problem to the one source: women.

Reportedly, South Korea's birth rate has been declining and, according to the World Bank, it has the lowest birth rate among countries of the developed world.

The problem is that the country's women are rejecting marriage and motherhood, and have started a #NoMarriage movement.


Women rejecting archaic 'not yet married' tag

Women rejecting archaic 'not yet married' tag

In South Korea, women who are "not yet married" are often termed 'mi-hon', a tag that comes with the archaic besmirchment of being a failure.

Vexed at this demeaning social norm, a group of unmarried women in the country have adopted the label 'bi-hon': "to not marry, to not have children."

This adjustment establishes marriage as a choice instead of an obligation.


And, death rate expected to surpass birth rate this year

Notably, South Korea's birth rate has been the lowest among OECD countries in the Asia-Pacific region since 2016.

Further, in February, the birth rate dropped 7% from last year.

And, now in 2019, the death rate is expected to surpass the birth rate.

Additionally, the number of women who believed marriage is a must dropped from 64.7% in 2010, to 48.1% in 2018.

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Country's productive age-range to drop below half by 2067

Country's productive age-range to drop below half by 2067

Further, according to the nation's latest report, the productive age-range is expected to decline by 2.5 million by 2027, as compared to 37.6 million in 2017. Meanwhile, the older population will rise by 4.5 million.

By 2067, the number will drop by more than half to 17.8 million.

Already, schools and marriage-halls are shutting down over lack of students, and brides and grooms, respectively.


However, bi-hons promote 'live-alone life'

Coming to mi-hons, there are many women who have rejected the tag.

One of the most prominent faces, Baeck Ha-na also runs a YouTube channel 'Solo-darity' along with her co-host Jung Se-young.

The channel, which promotes the 'live-alone life', has over 23,000 subscribers.

Both women argue against the government's plans to boost birth rates by encouraging women to marry as its "abusive" and "frustrating".

Government's action

Government organizing 'recreational activities and table talks' among singles

Meanwhile, on its part, the government is offering incentives to push people towards marriage and parenthood.

In Sejong, about 30 working single men and women participated in "recreational activities and table talks" in June. A similar event was organized in Gangnam.

In rural areas, the government asked single women to submit applications with their height, weight, employment history, photo, and past marital status.


In 2016, government launched public map population of childbearing women

In 2016, government launched public map population of childbearing women

Further, the government also toyed with generous maternity-leave policies, cash allowances and boxes of beef and baby clothes to families with newborns to promote parenthood.

In December 2016, The New York Times reported, the government also launched a "birth map" using shades of pink to denote which areas had a higher number of women with childbearing age. It shut down within hours following backlash.


'Forced childbearing rooted in perception of women as objects'

Baeck told Bloomberg that "to force a woman into marriage and childbearing represent a deeply ingrained perception of a woman in our society as an object, not an individual."

She said, "Society made me feel like a failure for being in my 30's and not a wife or a mother. Instead of belonging to someone, I now have a more ambitious future for myself."


'Government's biggest problem: They aren't listening to women'

Baeck is also a member of a women's group called EMIF, or "Elite without Marriage, I am going Forward."

EMIF co-founder, Kang Han-byul, said, "The government's biggest problem is that they aren't listening to the women- the actual subjects that have to bear the children and have to raise the children."

Mostly, women, even working women, are held responsible for chores and mothering.


'Don't want to be used as a baby-making tool'

'Don't want to be used as a baby-making tool'

Kang said, "They try to sell this idea that a family is beautiful, having children is beautiful when there are many unspoken things that actually happen to the woman physically, mentally- which is why these policies will never win us over."

Speaking about how women are treated as second-class citizens, Se-young added, "I don't want to be used as a tool simply for baby-making."

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