중앙데일리

In an uptrend, women marrying younger men

`연상녀-연하남` 커플비중 역대 최고

Mar 27,2010
For Huh You-kyung, a 31-year-old attorney at a large law firm in Seoul, having a husband one year her junior is no longer too embarrassing to speak about.

Huh, who married in 2006, recalled that her in-laws initially were a bit hesitant about the pairing, as it was rare to see a woman with a younger man - called a “yeonsang-yeonha” couple - at the time.

But Huh said the overall climate has changed significantly in just the past few years, and some of her female colleagues have even recently married men a decade or more younger than them.

“People are rarely surprised to find out that I am living with a man who is younger,” Huh said. “We consider each other more like friends, something that might be unthinkable for traditionally patriarchal couples, and I like that.”

Huh is part of a larger trend sweeping across Korea and much of the developed world as the role of women in society evolves.

According to recent data released by Statistics Korea, the number of marriages involving women who are older than men hit a record high in 2009.

Among the 236,677 marriages in Korea last year where each side tied the knot for the first time, 33,794 - or 14.3 percent - involved older women and younger men, the data show.

That is the highest portion since Statistics Korea began tracking such data in 1990.

The portion of marriages where the man and woman were the same age also rose to a record high of 16.1 percent.

By the same token, marriages where the man was older than the woman fell below 70 percent of the total for the first time ever, coming in at 69.6 percent.

That’s a far cry from 1990, when 82.2 percent of newlywed wives had older husbands.

The same trend is true for those who remarried last year.

Among the 31,765 marriages in this group, 73.4 percent, or 29,202, involved men who were older than the women. That’s roughly unchanged from a year earlier, when the level hit a record low.

Analysts said the increase in the number of yeonsang-yeonha couples stems from the rising economic and social status of women in Korea’s traditionally male-dominant society.

Confucian beliefs that permeated throughout society during the 500-year rule of the Joseon Dynasty taught that men alone are responsible for supporting families financially and that the role of women should be confined to childbearing and household chores.

Today, however, women are increasingly venturing out into the corporate world.

The country’s low birthrate also is behind the trend, as the overall number of young women is shrinking, making it more difficult for men to find a junior partner.

“The number of women being born each year has been decreasing over the years,” said an official with Statistics Korea.

The official said the growth of yeonsang-yeonha couples will be a long-term trend.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

초혼 7쌍중 1쌍..재혼은 5쌍중 1쌍이 연상녀


지난해 연상녀-연하남 결혼커플 비중이 역대 최고치를 기록, 달라진 결혼 풍속도를 실감케 했다.

26일 통계청의 혼인통계에 따르면 지난해 초혼 23만6천677건 중 여자가 연상인 혼인 건수는 3만3천794건으로 전체의 14.3%를 차지했다.

이 비중은 통계청이 관련통계를 작성한 1990년 이래 가장 높은 수준으로, 90년 8.8%보다 5.5%포인트, 10년전인 1999년 10.1%보다 4.2%포인트 각각 높아졌다.

동갑내기 혼인건수도 3만8천109건으로 전체의 16.1%로 나타났는데 이 비중 역시 최고치다.

반면 남자가 연상인 혼인 건수는 16만4천774건으로 전체의 69.6%를 차지, 70%선이 무너지면서 최저치를 기록했다. 1990년 82.2%에 비해 12.6%포인트, 1999년 76.5%에 비해 7.9%포인트 각각 떨어졌다.

연상녀와의 결혼 비중이 높아지는 추세는 재혼 부부에서도 마찬가지였다.

지난해 재혼 3만천765건 중 남자가 연상인 경우는 2만9천202건으로 73.4%를 차지했다. 최저치였던 2008년과 같은 비중이다.
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