A recent post on Facebook by Cho’s Family Law office was a reminder that divorce among multicultural couples in Korea is high. And while multicultural marriages have decreased recently, the birthrate in multicultural families is higher.
Also on the rise is divorce among elderly couples, which surpassed newlywed rates this year. This is rising divorce rate is primarily why there has been a sharp increase in single parent homes in the last decade.
With an ageing population, and an increase in single elderly people, the need for a developed welfare system is higher than ever. President Park Geun-hye has already apologised twice for her failure to secure a national pension of W200 000 (about $200) a month per pensioner.
Also in need of welfare support are single mothers. Many cannot afford to live alone, and have been increasingly turning to shelters and government homes. In the face of such circumstances, many choose adoption. Last year, 34% of mothers listed economic hardship as a reason for giving up their children for adoption. Government data shows that 90% of 2012 adoptees were born to what are publicly referred to as mihonmo or “unwed mothers”. At present, single mothers earning less than about $1200 a month with children under 12 years old are allocated about $50 a month by the government. While single fathers are required to pay child support by law, this involves a complex legal process that often means that a lack of responsibility is placed on such fathers.
Like most social changes in Korea, the transformation of the traditional family has been rapid. Women are gaining independence, but this may not come easily, as Korea still has one of the highest gender gaps in terms of wages and perceived social equality.