Single-men statistics behind the numbers
Last week, the city of Seoul presented a statistical “Life of a Man in Seoul” and the portrayal is meaningful in many ways.
One out of five men living in Seoul between the ages of 35 and 49 has never married, with the number of single men in the age group increasing from 24,239 in 1990 to 242,590 in 2010.
In 20 years, the number of unmarried men grew by tenfold, nearly double the rate of increase for single females in the same age group. Financial reasons seems to be a more significant factor for men than women: 52.4 percent of the unmarried men have not gone to college while 61 percent of single women in the same age group are college graduates.
Every Jack has his Jill, as we used to say, but that may no longer be valid.
There are many sayings skeptical about marriage. Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard famously said, “If you marry, you will regret it; if you do not marry, you will also regret it.”
French journalist and art historian John Grand-Carteret had a more humorous attitude, saying that the difference between being single and married is boredom and boredoms.
Historically, singles have hardly been welcome in society. In ancient Persia, those who had no children were called “a person with severed bridge.” They thought that if you did not have children, you would not be able to cross the bridge to the other world after death.
In ancient Israel, singles were not full citizens. The Bible is not so favorable toward singles, either, as seen in the following passages: “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth,” (Genesis) or “Woe to him that is alone when he falls; for he has not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes).
Koreans were no exception. In “Old Maiden’s Song” from the late Joseon period, the 40-year-old unmarried woman laments, “What good would it be for my parents to bring me up? Will they raise me and eat me up?”
Financially stable men and women, of course, are free to remain unmarried. In an era of communication and technology, singlehood does not necessarily mean isolation and solitude. And relationships between adult men and women need not necessarily be based on the prospect of marriage. Moreover, instead of a spouse, Koreans may use the term “partner” more often in the near future.
Thankfully, being single does not have to mean being lonely. Nevertheless, it is painful - and pitiful - to know that singlehood of men in Seoul may be directly related to income.
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Noh Jae-hyun