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South Korea's Low Birthrate Crisis Prompts Government to Introduce Matchmaking Services To Encourage Citizens to Get Married and Have Children

by Therese Agcopra / Oct 20, 2015 02:54 AM EDT
South Korean government resorts to measures to improve country's population. (Photo by Chung Sung Jun / Getty Images)

With South Korea's fertility rate set for an alarming decrease, the government has introduced another measure to counter the crisis. Other than offering new benefits such as free diapers and dried milk for women, government-sponsored matchmaking services will soon be made available to encourage individuals to get married.

The South Korean government announced Sunday its plan to open more opportunities for future spouses to meet through organized meetings and cultural events, Korea Herald reports Oct. 19. The program is expected to go into full swing in 2016.

Korea's current fertility rate stands at 1.21 children per woman, which is even lower than Japan's. The Nation Multimedia reported May  23, 2015 that South Korea's population may begin its decline in 2030 after reaching its peak at 52.16 million people.

In 2014, South Korea recorded only 8.6 babies per 1000 citizens, the country's lowest number since they began keeping records in 1970, Wall Street Journal wrote Aug. 26, 2014.

Looking at the current birthrate, nearly 15 percent of South Korea's population will already be at least 65 years old in the year 2018. The figure will rise to 50 percent by 2100. South Korean's might even reach natural extinction by 2750 if the figures do not improve.   

However, the government's frantic measures to counter the problem are also receiving criticism from experts.

"Dating is one of the most personal activities in anyone's life," Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs researcher Cho Sung Ho tells Korea Herald. "It's questionable if it is appropriate for the government to get involved in the dating lives of its citizens. When the state is encouraging the young population to get married, what is it saying about those who opt not to get married?"

Among the reasons why Koreans are delaying marriage include the number of youngsters who prioritize their education and career over settling down and forming a family. The expensive cost of child care and housing is also a crucial concern.

Critics say the problem with the government's population boosting policies is that they are not conscious of changing cultural norms and the social circumstances faced by younger Koreans.

Paik Young Gyung, anthropology professor at Korea National Open University, says "We are living in a world where people have different values, such as individual happiness. When an individual wants to not get married or not have children, for whatever reasons he or she may have, that decision must be respected."

She further adds, "What the fertility rates show us is that life is difficult for the majority of Koreans right now. Getting married and having children shouldn't be such big deals as they are in Korea today. The ideal society is where an individual feels that getting married and having children are something natural, rather than something that requires a lot of work and sacrifice."

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