The number of marriages involving couples tying the knot for the first time rose to a nine-year high last year mainly due to favorable demographic factors, a government report showed Thursday.
According to the report by Statistics Korea, the number of men and women getting married for the first time reached 258,600, or 78.6 percent of all marriages tallied last year. This is the highest percentage since 78.7 percent reached in 2002.
"The increase of about 4,000 couples is mainly due to the rise in the number of women in the country in their late 20s, which is making it easier for men to find spouses," an official at the statistical agency said.
In the past, there were usually more men in the suitable marriage age group than women because families traditionally wanted boys instead of girls.
She said this development should carry over through this year before the gender imbalance widens again in 2013.
Another development that helped push up the numbers of newlyweds was that the sluggish pace of economic growth, high consumer prices and spike in housing costs in 2011, had a less-than-expected impact on marriages.
South Korea's economic growth fell to 3.6 percent last year from a gain of 6.2 percent in 2010. Consumer prices rose 4 percent, which is the upper limit of the Bank of Korea's inflation control target.
Overall, the number of people getting married in the country hit 329,100, up 3,000 or 0.9 percent from the year before.
This marks the second year in a row that the number of people getting married rose compared to the year before. In 2010, marriages shot up 16,300 or 5.3 percent on-year to 326,100, from 309,800 in the previous year when total number of people getting married contracted 5.5 percent on-year.
The report also showed the average age of men getting married for the first time reached 31.9 years up 0.1 year from the year before.
For women, the average gained 0.2 year to 29.1 years.
Marriages between South Korean nationals and foreigners stood at 29,800, down from 34,235 in the previous year. Such marriages made up 9.0 percent of all people tying the knot in the country, down from 10.5 percent in 2010.
On divorce, the statistical office said the number of people going their separate ways contracted 2.2 percent on-year to 114,300.
After peaking in 2002, South Korea's divorce numbers have been on the decline, although there was a slight increase in 2009.
The statistical office said relatively stable economic conditions, greater care taken by people when selecting spouses in the first place and so-called divorce waiting period introduced in 2008 helped reduce breakup of marriages that could have a detrimental social impact.
There were, however, a greater number of divorces involving a foreigner spouse. Last year there were 11,500 divorces involving couples with foreign spouses, up by 400 from the year before.
In addition, divorces among people over 55 steadily increased, along with people who have been married for only a short time.
The average age of a man getting a divorce stood at 45.4 years, with the age for women reaching 41.5 years, according to the report. (Yonhap)