Korean dream is out of reach of more youngYoon Hwan was on cloud nine last year when his girlfriend said “yes” after he asked her to get married. He envisioned a happy future full of precious moments with his wife and children. But that euphoria quickly gave way to a heavy heart when his dream was deflated by a lack of money and uncertain financial future.
He feels his confidence being eroded by a lingering perception that, upon marriage, men should provide a home for the couple to live in and women should buy furniture and appliances to fill the home. The 30-year-old currently has about 10 million won ($8,800) in savings, an amount that falls short of what is needed for a deposit on even a small apartment unit in Seoul.
“I would have married if I had money,” said Yoon, who is now preparing to take a test to become an electronics engineer.
Yoon is one of hundreds of thousands of young Koreans who don’t earn enough to buy a home, and are delaying marriage out of frustration over a lack of prospects.
Korea’s economy is stuck in a slowdown, and many young people can’t find decent jobs. The unemployment rate for young adults - between the ages of 15 and 29 - stood at 10.8 percent in March, much higher than the overall jobless rate of 4.3 percent, according to government data.
The lack of stable employment affects other areas of life. A survey released by the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs in March showed that 9.7 percent of 846 men and 1.5 percent of 904 women said they were not dating for financial reasons.
In the latest sign of economic trouble, the Bank of Korea said Thursday that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) backtracked an estimated 0.3 percent in the first three months of the year from the previous quarter, marking the worst performance in an almost decade.
Last week, the central bank also slashed its growth outlook for Asia’s fourth-largest economy to 2.5 percent for the year, from the 2.6 percent made in January, citing economic uncertainties and slowing exports.
Yoon said he has little hope that he can save enough money to buy a house and eventually realize his goals of getting married and having a baby.
The median price of apartments in Seoul hit a record high of 829 million won in September last year, up from 480 million won in December 2008, when such data began to be compiled, according to KB Kookmin Bank, one of Korea’s biggest retail banks.
It was the first time that the median price surpassed the 800-million-won mark in a country where annual average household disposable income was 41.28 million won in 2017, the latest year for which statistics are available.
The escalating prices mean that if the average earner were to save their entire annual disposable income, it would take nearly two decades to be able to buy an apartment worth 800 million won.
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