By Kim Tae-jong
Births from multiracial marriages sharply increased last year at a far higher level than among Koreans, figures showed Wednesday.
According to Statistics Korea, 22,014 babies were born to such families last year, up 1,702 or 8.4 percent from the previous year. The rate is much higher than the 0.2 percent increase for Korean couples.
But their contribution may shrink in the future as divorces for this demographic have continuously risen and there has been a relatively big decline in interracial marriages.
Statistics Korea said 14,450 mixed marriage couples split up last year, a rise of 0.9 percent from the previous year, accounting for 12.6 percent of all marriage breakups in Korea.
The average married life before divorce stood at 4.9 years, much shorter than divorces between Korean couples, which occurred after 14.4 years.
The increase in the number of divorces is largely attributed to the fact that many married migrants, the majority of them Asian women, frequently struggle to adjust to the differences in language and way of living as well as fighting social prejudice against them.
The jump has been also coupled with a decline in interracial marriages.
Marriages of such couples decreased to 30,695 in 2011, down 12 percent from the previous year. They stood at 35,098 in 2010, 33,862 in 2009 and 36,629 in 2008.
Officials attributed the decline to stronger restrictions imposed on commercial marriage brokers in countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines and Cambodia.
As a result, the ratio of interracial marriage to all unions decreased to 9.3 percent, compared to 10.8 percent in 2010, 10.9 percent in 2009 and 11.2 percent in 2008.
According to the survey, Chinese women accounted for the largest portion of such marriages at 30.3 percent, followed by Vietnamese at 25.2 percent and Korean women married to foreign men at 20.9 percent.
Among males, Korean men married to foreign women accounted for 72.9 percent, followed by Chinese men at 8.5 percent and Japanese men at 5.6 percent.
By region, Gyeonggi Province and Seoul had the largest number of interracial marriages last year, which stood at 7,329 and 6,644.
The average age of men at their first marriage stood at 36.1 while that of women was 26.6. The age difference decreased to 9.5 last year, from 10.3 from the previous year.