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Government asks young couples why they refuse to have children

Dec. 9, 2023 - 16:01 By Yoon Min-sik
Officials of the Ministry of Health and Welfare hold a discussion with young couples to discuss why they refuse to have children, in a meeting in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Young South Korean couples without children cited intense competition among students and financial issues as why they decide to go childless, in a meeting with government officials held Thursday evening.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare hosted six young couples who do not plan to have children at the meeting hosted in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul, in a bid to acquire ideas for policies that will help tackle the issue of the faltering birth rate in South Korea.

Several of the participants raised concerns over the hypercompetitive nature of the college entrance admissions, which starts from the very young age.

"(Parents) constantly compare kids from their first birthday parties, even over which child started walking. I don't think I can engage in such endless competition," one of the participants said.

Those who took part in discussion stressed that everything becomes subject to comparison among parents. One mentioned that a couple he knew got an expensive car way out of their budget so their children would not lose face in front of their friends.

"There are some people who call students with perfect attendance 'perfect poverty,' implying that they did not miss a single day of school because their family had no money to go on a trip," said another participant. "There must be something done about the culture of comparison among kids."

Some people said that they simply lack the time or finances to be good parents. "We each have our own job, and we barely have time to sleep at home and mostly eat out. I don't think I'll be able to take good care of the child, and I'm afraid he or she will resent me," one participant said.

Lee Ki-il, the first vice minister of the Welfare Ministry who hosted the event, acknowledged the difficulties young couples have in raising children and vowed to come up with policies to boost the country's birth rate.

The ministry plans to hold meetings with people from unmarried households and households with multiple children.

South Korea has been suffering from a severe dip in its fertility rate and a corresponding decrease in population. The country's total fertility rate -- the number of children a woman is expected to have in over her lifetime -- dropped to a record low of 0.78 last year, according to Statistics Korea.

According to the Ministry of Interior and Safety's August report, South Korea has logged a population decrease for the third straight year in 2022, going from 51.6 million in 2021 to 51.4 million.