1 in 10 marriages in Korea last year was with a foreign national

Posted on : 2023-11-30 17:18 KST Modified on : 2023-11-30 17:18 KST
As overall marriage numbers fall, the proportion of those between Koreans and foreign nationals is on the rise
(Getty Images Bank)
(Getty Images Bank)

Last year, 1 out of every 10 couples getting married were multicultural families, which the Korean government defines as pairings between a Korean and a foreign national. The share of multicultural families has grown because multicultural marriages are on the rise even as marriages between Koreans are declining.

According to 2022 statistics on multicultural demographic trends released by Statistics Korea on Wednesday, there were 17,428 multicultural marriages — more specifically, marriages between a native Korean and a non-Korean or a naturalized Korean — last year.

The figure was up 25.1% from the year before, representing the biggest percentage increase since the Korean government began tracking the statistic in 2008.

“Multicultural marriages decreased considerably because of restrictions on movement in 2020-2021, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. But now those marriages are bouncing back,” explained Lim Young-il, the head of the demographic trends department at Statistics Korea.

The number of multicultural marriages had been trending downward, from 36,629 in 2008 to 29,224 in 2012 and 21,709 in 2016. That was the impact of tougher regulations imposed by the government after broker-arranged international marriages became a social issue.

These figures dropped even lower during the pandemic, when travel restrictions brought fewer foreigners to Korea. In 2020, only 16,177 multicultural marriages were recorded, and in 2021, there were only 13,926 such unions on the books. While the figure recovered a bit in 2022, reaching over 17,000, they have yet to reach levels seen prior to the pandemic.

Still, the proportion of intercultural marriages jumped to 9.1% of overall unions registered in Korea last year, meaning that approximately 1 in every 10 couples was a multicultural one.

This proportion had reached 11.2% in 2009 before falling to 7.4% in 2015. While it rallied to 10.3% in 2019, it once again fell to hit 7.6% in 2020 and 7.2% in 2021. The change is being interpreted as a result of a drop in overall marriages, making marriages between Koreans and foreign nationals make up a relatively larger share of total unions.

Of these couples, 66.8% were composed of a Korean husband and foreign national wife, while 20.0% were composed of a Korean wife and a foreign national husband. Marriages between a Korean and a naturalized citizen made up 13.2%.

Out of men who married foreign nationals, the largest proportion (31.2%) were over the age of 45, while the largest proportion of women who married foreign nationals were between 30 and 34, at 24.6%.

Couples in which the husband was 10 or more years older than his wife made up 35% of unions.

By Park Jong-o, staff reporter

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