Is marriage necessary?
In our society, there are people who promise to be with their partner forever while a few others who want to live alone. Currently, the number of marriages per 1,000 people continues to topple the previous year's record every year. As the individuals who are shunning marriage increase, our society has begun to pay attention to this issue.
For them, marriage is not a must but a choice. They think anyone who does not want to marry should be allowed to refuse matrimony freely. Recently, because of the many social backgrounds people have and a trend of individualism in Korea, many people focus on their independent life rather than marriage, which tends to be followed by responsibility and sacrifice for a family. What is the reason for this growth of unwed singles who want to live an independent life, and what exactly are they thinking?
Refusing marriage is a striking phenomenon in our society, so much so that, there is even a term that describes the people who do. Why do they say “No” to marriage? There are social reasons for why many women think pessimistically about marriage. One of them is the patriarchal culture pervading every aspect of life.
In Korean society, the stereotype that men should do outdoor work and women should do indoor work has existed because of the influence of Confucian culture. Although the stereotype has been lessening with the growing awareness of gender equality, this prejudice still remains in our society. According to the index of World and Life Balance in 2016, the average housework time of a dual-career family per day is 3 hours and 20 minutes for women and just 40 minutes for men. For this reason, many women have great difficulty in advancing their careers while doing housework at the same time.
Moreover, individualism is emerging as a trend in Korean culture. Eating meals by oneself, going to the movies alone and drinking in solitude have recently become a trend in society. This means that living independently of others is becoming the norm. Many women want to live their own life rather than life as a wife or a mother. As individualism develops, people think that the marriage is no longer a necessary step in their life.
Since the number of individuals who do not want to marry continues to increase, a new culture has emerged. One example of this is the singles wedding. Some people are expressing their strong will to reject marriage by holding their wedding alone. The number of men and women who want to have their own wedding ceremony is increasing. A professional wedding photographer in Gangnam-gu, Seoul said he meets people who come to take wedding photos alone roughly two times a month.
Also, a strong bond between the intentionally unmarried has come to be. There are social gatherings, in which these unwed singles hold regular meetings and travel together. One group, called the Un-ni Network, made and distributed guidebooks for the unmarried. In their guidebook, there is information on how to look for a room by oneself, how to overcome social prejudice, and so on.
Moreover, a group of graduate students majoring in law at Ewha Womens University, Full House, has recently been collecting signatures in support of the law called Partner in Life Act. According to them, with the present law, only a family member of the injured can sign the surgery consent form. If the Partner in Life Act is put into action, even though they are not married, his or her life partner can sign the surgery consent form. Like this, intentionally single people make their bond instead of through traditional familial ones.
There are some whose words oppose the unmarried from meeting a lifetime partner: “Will you live a lonely life forever?”, “You will die without your partner or children looking after you.”, ”You will regret your choice when getting older.”
What do the intentionally single people think about these scathing remarks? When asked about the first question, many respond that everyone feels loneliness, whether they are married or not. They say it is not necessary to feel loved only from families. “We can love and be loved by our neighbors, relatives and our society.” When they hear the moment of their death, they say “Death is something everyone has to accept by themselves, regardless of whether you have a partner or not.” Upon hearing the idea that they will feel regret if they do not marry, they acknowledge that there is no life without regret. “Our life is a series of paths where we went or not. Just because someone is married with children, does that guarantee they will not have regret? We just choose to be unmarried as one of the many choices in our lives.”
As the people who refuse to marry and decide to live alone increase in numbers, society has started to listen carefully to their what they say. It is not to say that not marrying is ideal, nor that people should live independently. They want to say it is time to respect their choices and consider them as one of the various types of households in Korea. Columnist Lee Jin-song gives her opinion that now is the time to admit different forms of households: “I think it is meaningless to weigh the pros and cons between the wed and unwed. I hope people who want to live their lives with their lovers to be happy with a support of the state; and, those who don’t want to marry and choose to live alone should be free from the prejudice of others.”
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