South Korea has the world’s lowest fertility rate. In 2017 it fell below one birth per woman, and has only fallen further since. Observers cite Korea’s intense work culture, high cost of housing and private tutoring, and growing inequality, as well as the expansion in women’s education and career aspirations. Policy responses that expanded child care access and family leave have not had the desired effect of increasing the country's fertility rates.
This project looks at the under-examined phenomenon of how gender dynamics in Korea have contributed to a retreat from marriage, and even from dating, due to what one scholar calls “the gender war”: the rising antagonism between women and men, which plays out both online and in real life. This antagonism is evident in a sharp increase in digital sex crimes, protests and counterprotests by men’s rights activists and feminists, and most prominently in the election of President Yoon Suk-yeol, who received the overwhelming support of frustrated young men.
In a country with hardly any nonmarital births, marriage decline correlates with birth rates.