Living alone in Korea Republic

Home alone

Shifting social trends see record number of single households

Singletons enjoy a meal at a Sinchon restaurant in Seoul. This restaurant offers single seats for lone diners.
(Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

The Roman emperor Augustus prohibited unmarried women between the ages of 20 and 50 from inheriting property because dying without legitimate children left properties heirless. Living alone in Ancient Rome was frowned upon by both state and citizenry.

After 2,000 years, prospects for those living alone have changed, although of course, not entirely for the better.

The modern day independent soul is sometimes known as a “singleton,” a one-person householder who voluntarily or involuntarily chooses to forfeit the comforts or discomforts of family life. The inclusive moniker inevitably includes unwilling singletons such as senior citizens who outlive their spouses, lonely divorcees in their 40s or 50s, and young job hunters living alone.

The trend is already prevalent in the United States (where 27 percent of households have a single occupant), Sweden (where over 2 million are solo dwellers in a country of 9.5 million) and Japan (over 30 percent).

Source: Statistics Korea, Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade

Here in Korea, a record-high and ever increasing proportion of 23.89 percent of all households are one-person abodes. In fact, 23.8 percent of men and 18.9 percent of women in their 20s will stay single until 45 if the present trends continue, according to Lee Sang-lim of the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs.

“If the marriage rate of 2010 persists, one in four or five men and one in five or six women who are now in their 20s are expected to stay single,” said Lee.

A July study by Lee Eun-mi of the Samsung Economic Research Institute further posited that “the growth rate of the number of Korean one-person households is the fastest on the planet,” while by 2035, reported Statistics Korea, over one third, or over 7 million households in Korea, will be one-person homes.

Fundamental social changes that have rocked traditional Korean Confucian values have contributed to the rise in solo dwellers. Marriage, for example, is losing its status as an indispensable rite of passage among Koreans, especially women. In 2010, 39.4 percent of Seoul women thought they didn’t have to get married while 41.8 percent thought divorce was no longer a big no-no in Korean society. In the same year, 34 percent of Koreans over the age of 15 answered they were either indifferent to marriage or were outright against in a national survey conducted by Statistics Korea.

“I love the freedom in my life; the freedom to engage in hobbies, to develop myself. I went to China in 2011 for one year to learn the language. And after my work life ends, I plan to travel. That’s all I want in retirement,” said 46 year-old Kim Na-young, a 15-year veteran of the single life and divorcee living in Seoul.

“I see no particular reason to get married again.”

The rising divorce rate among even elderly couples, who have lived through times when divorce was an enormous social taboo in Korea, has also been a factor in the increase of singletons. In 1991, 978 senior couples divorced after having shared a home for more than two decades. By 2012, the figure had increased six-fold to 6,062.

But it’s not all about not getting married or getting a happy (or unhappy) divorce. Being a singleton means a lot more.

Leaving the bathroom door open while taking a shower, cooking in the kitchen naked, and taking the liberty to make the living room another bedroom are luxuries only some can enjoy.

“I think the most enjoyable part of living alone is that I don’t have to worry about the things other people in the home might say. I can leave the bathroom door open and I can sleep with only my underwear on,” said Han Se-sik, a 23 year-old college student living alone in Seoul.

David Song, a 34 year-old writer, told The Korea Herald his love for go-it-alone activities such as reading convinced him that going solo was the right thing to do.

“I’ve always been a ‘self-person’ so to speak, and perhaps that’s why I’ve never been that lonely living alone.”

Owning an exclusive living space, however, is not pure glamour, as may have been the case in Ancient Rome. Better healthcare means longer lives in the 21st century, which in turn implies that more spouses are sending off their lifelong partners to the next world and living alone for ten or twenty extra years.

In the most recent national census conducted in 2010, over 1.06 million senior citizens (or over 23 percent of all one-person households) over the age of 65 lived alone. By 2035, Statistics Korea estimates that 1.5 million men and women over 70 will be living in solitude.

Unlike many of their younger counterparts, though, aging singletons must cope with financial, healthcare, and psychological issues. Because close to 40 percent of current senior singletons never attended school while another 37.5 percent only attended elementary school, they face great difficulty finding jobs that will finance their daily lives. Not to mention the loneliness senior citizens can face as they live out their remaining days.

South Korea took the unenvied top spot in elderly suicides in the OECD in 2012 with 81.8 per 100,000 people between the ages of 65 and 74 taking their own lives, while a staggering 160 per 100,000 of those aged over 74 committed suicide.

Younger singletons have their own worries.

“When I get sick, there is no easy solution,” admitted Song, while Lee, a 36-year-old working female, said she worries about home robberies targeting single women like herself. “I pretend as best I can that there is someone else in the home when I order food, or meet a delivery guy at the front door.”

Kim Seo-hee, a 26 year-old female singleton living in Seoul, admitted there had been an occurrence in which an unknown male had followed her home.

“I have been scared many times while living alone. During nights, I get sensitive a lot and wake up at the slightest of sounds,” she said.

And then, there are the other implications of singledom Korea must face ― fewer babies, for instance.

“Even having children is considered a spec,” said Park Keong-suk, professor of sociology at Seoul National University, in reference to the overheated credential-focused job hunting environment for Korea’s 20-somethings.

“It’s not that everyone is avoiding marriage or trying out new lifestyles by living alone … Living alone is rather one of the many by-products of today’s economic difficulties, insecure future and hardships in finding the right person to live with … There are many who just simply give up trying to marry.”

Whatever the causes, fewer marriages mean fewer babies, contributing to an extremely low birth rate. Right now, Korea’s fertility rate stands at 1.3, a slight improvement from 2005 when it stood at 1.076. A declining birth rate would strain pension funds, to which younger generations must pay taxes, while at the same time aggravating manpower shortages in the private sector, the public sector, and even the military.

Park cautioned that Korea was ill-prepared for the increasing number of singles.

“I think it’s a paradox. Korea is still, at the moment, a communal society more or less. But there are increasing numbers of people who are feeling lonely, and increasing numbers of those who are trying to live it out alone, meaning more single households and a lower fertility rate” she said.

“But we aren’t prepared for this big change.”

By Chun Sung-woo, Jeong Hunny




Rugby League World Cup: Australia smash Fiji

November 24, 2013 – 6:49AM

Brad Walter

Chief Rugby League Writer

LONDON: Australian captain Cameron Smith insists the Kangaroos won’t use their 2008 World Cup defeat by New Zealand as motivation when the two nations meet again in next weekend’s final at Old Trafford.

The Kangaroos romped into the World Cup decider with a 64-0 rout of a Fiji team – that had only 30 per cent of possession – to set up the clash with Kiwis, who had won the opening game of the semi-final double header at Wembley Stadium in sensational fashion.

As the Australians left the dressing room to warm-up, England was leading 18-14 with less than a minute remaining so the Kangaroos were surprised to then learn New Zealand had won the epic encounter.

Hat-trick: Jarryd Hayne has scored seven tries playing at centre in his past two games.

Hat-trick: Jarryd Hayne has scored seven tries playing at centre in his past two games. Photo: Getty Images


But Smith said they knew what to expect from the Kiwis and would be prepared for a torrid battle in what will be the first match at Old Trafford for any of the squad.


“2008 was a long time ago and I know we won’t be using that as motivation,” Smith said.

“I am sure it will be in a few of the guys’ back of their minds but we have got a totally different team and different coach so our motivation will be the best Australian team we can be.”

One-way traffic: Josh Papalii crosses for a try during the first half.One-way traffic: Josh Papalii crosses for a try during the first half. Photo: AFP

Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens said he was most pleased by the team’s defence.

“We won the game and stopped them scoring so that was the plan but there are some bumps and bruises,” he said.

Sheens confirmed star fullback Billy Slater would be considered after missing the semi-final with a knee injury.

Brett Morris of Australia scores a try despite the tackle of Kevin Naiqama.Brett Morris of Australia scores a try despite the tackle of Kevin Naiqama. Photo: Getty Images

“Each performance has been getting better but we are going to give Billy every chance to play,” Sheens said.

“Billy is running so that is a good sign.”

While the Kiwis were pushed to the limit by England, Tim Sheens’ side has strolled through almost effortlessly to a 13th straight World Cup final.

A stretch: James Tamou of Australia scores a try through the tackle of Aaron Groom and Apisai Koroisau.A stretch: James Tamou of Australia scores a try through the tackle of Aaron Groom and Apisai Koroisau. Photo: Getty Images

The Kangaroos have piled on 210 points in their past four games and haven’t conceded a single try.

Hayne continued his remarkable form in the centres, taking his tournament try-scoring tally to nine, while winger Darius Boyd had a double.

Man-of-the-match Johnathan Thurston and fellow playmaker Cooper Cronk ran riot while Greg Inglis, starting at fullback in place of the injured Billy Slater, was his usual dangerous self and Paul Gallen did the most damage up front.

Johnathan Thurston scores the opening try for Australia.

The Kangaroos stormed to a 34-0 lead at halftime, running in six first-half tries.

The match brought an end to the illustrious career of Fiji captain Petero Civoniceva, who also played 45 Tests for the Kangaroos.

AUSTRALIA 64 (J Hayne 3 D Boyd 2 C Cronk A Fifita B Morris J Papalii J Tamou J Thurston tries J Thurston 10 goals) bt FIJI 0 at Wembley Stadium. Referee: Richard Silverwood. Crowd: 67,545.

with AAPP


The Sydney Morning Herald

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Toda a sua equipe será movimentada na ocasião, inclusive com repórteres distribuídos nos pontos mais diferentes.

O sorteio terá início por volta das 11 da manhã, mas 2 horas antes o secretário-geral da FIFA, Jérôme Valcke, receberá os ex-jogadores e capitães de suas seleções Cafu (Brasil), Lothar Matthaus (Alemanha), Mário Kempes (Argentina), Fernando Hierro (Espanha), Fabio Cannavaro (Itália), Ghiggia (Uruguai) e um representante da França, ainda não anunciado.

Então é isso. Mas amanhã tem mais. Tchau!


Flávio Ricco com colaboração de José Carlos Nery

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… Mas só Deus sabe as dificuldades que a equipe do SporTV enfrentou em Miami, sábado passado, no jogo da seleção brasileira…
… Saiu porque tinha que sair, graças aos esforços dos profissionais da emissora brasileira.


Flávio Ricco com colaboração de José Carlos Nery

Paloma Tocci participará da cobertura da Copa do Mundo da FIFA Brasil 2014


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… Trabalho em estúdio. Ela será uma das âncoras das transmissões, dividindo essas funções com Renata Fan e Milton Neves.


Flávio Ricco com colaboração de José Carlos Nery

De Frente Com Gabi 24/11/2013


As grandes estrelas do funk ostentação, MC Gui e MC Guimê, serão os convidados do “De frente com Gabi”, da Marília Gabriela, neste domingo, no SBT.


Flávio Ricco com colaboração de José Carlos Nery

Record e Globo já divulgam Nova Família Trapo e Divertics

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A Globo também, ainda que discretamente, já tem alguns teasers do “Divertics”


Flávio Ricco com colaboração de José Carlos Nery

Sessão de Terapia tem CD com trilha sonora


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Flávio Rico com colaboração de José Carlos Nery