There are now more funerals than weddings in Korea as the birthrate remains at a record low and many baulk at the cost of getting married. Last year, the number of marriages and deaths was about even and this year, deaths are expected to outpace nuptials.
Analysis of marriage and death data last week shows that there were 281,700 weddings last year compared to 281,000 deaths. Weddings long outnumbered deaths, but the difference narrowed from 150,000 in 1990 to 70,000 in 2010.
More and more young Koreans are delaying marriage while society is aging rapidly. According to Statistics Korea, 280,000 marriages are expected this year but 296,000 deaths. That also affects the business structure, with many wedding halls closing as new funeral parlors pop up.
In 2014, there were 844 registered wedding halls, down 12.8 percent from 968 in 2006, while the number of funeral homes rose 21.5 percent over the same period from 1,570 to 1,908.
Statistics Korea began tracking census and other data in 1970, and the only time there were more deaths than marriages in Korea was in 1973. But that was an exception whereas now the trend seems ingrained.
The number of weddings had stood above 300,000 since the 1990s but fell below 280,000 last year. In contrast, the number of deaths had hovered at around 240,000 since 1990 but rose to 250,000 in 2010 and 280,000 in 2016.
Kim Tae-heon at the Korea National University of Education said, "The number of Koreans of marriageable age is declining while the number of deaths is expected to reach new records."
Provincial regions, which are home to large numbers of senior citizens, have long seen the number of deaths surpass the number of weddings, and the same is true in the major cities of Busan and Daegu. In Seoul, weddings still outnumber deaths, but the difference narrowed from 30,000 in 2012 to 14,000 last year.