In Korea, family takes new forms

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In Korea, family takes new forms

Korea is currently experiencing an upheaval in the family system. Families including two parents and their children have decreased in recent years, while the single household has gradually become more common as an increasing number of Koreans delay or forego marriage.

According to the statistics in 2010, traditional nuclear families, consisting of two parents and their children, made up 37 percent of all households. That was followed by single-person homes (23.9 percent) and couples without children (15.4 percent).

Statistics Korea estimates that single-person households will increase up to 29.6 percent by 2020, becoming the most prevalent demographic. The National Assembly Research Service also projects that single-person households will continue to grow, representing 37 percent of all households by 2050.

And with that shift, it appears the definition of what constitutes a family has also begun to change. The JoongAng Ilbo recently conducted survey of 50 adult children in their 20s and 50 parents in their 60s or older.

When asked whether they agreed with the standard that a typical family consisted of two parents and their children, nearly all of the parents agreed - 94 percent - while only 52 percent of the grown children did. In addition, 22 percent of those polled answered affirmatively when asked if single-person households were a type of family.

“It is an inevitable social phenomenon that single-person households are becoming more dominant due to longer life expectancies and a greater reluctance to marry,” said Lee Myoung-jin, a sociology professor at Korea University. “Therefore, the government will unavoidably have to implement major changes in its economic, welfare and educational institutions, which are built around conjugal families.”

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