Inside South Korea’s Marriage Strike

For three consecutive years, South Korea has recorded the lowest fertility rate in the world. Part of the reason for this is a marriage and birth ‘strike’ being held by the country’s women. But why are they refusing to get married?

A recent column for the New York Times explores why 65% of women in South Korea do not want children, according to a 2022 survey. 

The unaffordable cost of raising children, long working hours, expensive house prices, and poor job prospects are among the challenges faced by young people in the country. But it is the pressure on women to be ‘baby-making machines’ that is a prominent factor in this marriage strike.

The article explains that societal expectations still require women to do the majority of housework, even in households where both partners are working. Additionally, many companies discriminate against pregnant women, to the detriment of their careers.

 “The birth strike is women’s revenge on a society that puts impossible burdens on us and doesn’t respect us”, Jiny Kim, a 30 year old female office worker told the New York Times. 

Feminist movements in South Korea have created groups such as ‘4B’ which is based around the 4 rules of No dating, No sex, No marriage, and No Dating. 

As women in South Korea face a government and society unwilling to acknowledge gender inequalities, the future of the country’s fertility looks dire. The New York Times summarises what needs to be done:

“Motivating Korean women to reconsider marriage and children involves infusing every aspect of their lives with agency and equality”.