It's never too late: 'Twilight divorce' in South Korea at record

Thu Nov 12, 2015 4:59pm EST
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By Rebecca Jang and Jee Heun Kahng

SEOUL (Reuters) - Twilight divorces after 20 years of marriage are at a record in South Korea as the stigma of divorce wears off in a conservative society and court rulings make it financially viable for older women to go it alone.

For 54-year-old Kim Nan-young, who felt trapped in a loveless marriage for two decades, divorce was better late than never.

    "I'd put up with my husband's patriarchal and overbearing behavior for so many years, because I was reluctant to divorce when my children were small," said Kim, a mother of two sons who split up two years ago from her husband of 25 years.

    "Now I only have myself to take care of, which makes it easier to find work. There are a lot of things women can do for a living," said Kim, who has since started her own small laundry business.

    Kim's sons had given her the financial and emotional support she needed to make the break, but it also helped that courts have been ruling increasingly in favor of splitting up matrimonial assets more evenly on divorce.

    As many as 33,140 couples split up last year following more than 20 years of marriage, the national statistics bureau said this month, accounting for more than a quarter of all divorces, and a surge of 31 percent over the last decade.

More women are choosing to walk away from unhappy marriages when their children are grown, as the social stigma attached to divorce dissipates.

The spurt in later-life divorce is in sharp contrast to the drop in overall divorce cases, which stood at 115,510 last year, after having peaked at 166,617 in 2003.   Continued...

Newlyweds attend a mass wedding ceremony of the Unification Church at Cheongshim Peace World Centre in Gapyeong, March 3, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji