SEOUL: Love, or the thought of it is in the air, as Senior Minister of State Josephine Teo leads a National Population and Talent Division (NPTD) study trip to South Korea to examine marriage and parenthood trends in the country.
Mrs Teo took to Facebook to share insights from the first leg of her trip. She was particularly taken by the story of Ms Kim Min Hye, a 34-year-old South Korean who recently got married. Her earlier priorities in life revolved around the pursuit of an academic career that took up most of her time, Mrs Teo said.
Ms Kim Min Hye (left) and Mrs Josephine Teo (right) in Seoul. (Photo: Facebook)
The PhD candidate at the National University of Singapore added that she was content, until about three years ago.
Said Ms Kim: "At some point in my life, I realised this was not enough. I was looking for something else and gradually I thought about this for one or two years. Finally, I made this conclusion that I need someone to live with, to share my dreams and things like that."
Away from home and with a limited social circle, Ms Kim turned to the Internet in search of love, which involves the setting up a profile on a Korean dating website.
After several misses, she found what she was looking for - a Korean man who was not just out for fun. However, she was not met with instant approval when Ms Kim told her Singaporean friends about it.
"Most of my Singaporean friends say it's really highly stigmatised in Singapore,” she said. “The stigma is still there over here, but we don't care that much because, sometimes, when there are no other ways to meet people, we kind of accept it. We don't think it's that natural, so practically, what can we do?"
SIMILAR STATISTICS SEEN IN SINGAPORE
Ms Kim is one of many Koreans who are getting married later in life, a trend that is also seen in Singapore.
Statistics show that Korean men are getting married at around 32.4 years while the females do so at 29.8 years, up from 30.9 and 27.7 respectively a decade ago. In Singapore, men are settling down at around 30.2 years of age, while women do so at 28.2 years compared to 29.7 and 26.8 over the same period.
In South Korea, official studies point to high unemployment among the 15 to 29 age group as one of the factors. "Young people in Korea today are facing difficulties, especially on the economic front, making it harder for them to get married,” said head of the Population Research Centre at the Korean Institute of Health and Social Affairs, Lee Sang-Lim.
“They need to consider job security, income level, the cost that goes into a wedding and preparing for housing. That's why they are putting off marriage or aren't keen on tying the knot, which ultimately leads to lower birthrate."
In her Facebook post, Mrs Teo noted that Singaporeans are also delaying marriage, with some saying they are too busy to date due to career opportunities.
Perhaps, she said, Singaporeans need to be open to other ways of expanding their social networks such as Ms Kim did. "Starting early, proactively reaching out to meet new friends, openness to getting help, and having a relaxed attitude all seem to be the essential ingredients to enjoyable and successful dating. Can this style of dating help more Singaporean singles, perhaps?" she wrote.