I was recently very surprised in a conversation with a young female friend. My friend is gay and happily involved with another gay woman. The surprise was when she advised she had no ‘straight’ male friends. None. Why? “I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them.” Wow. Some statement. A hundred years ago, both of these ladies would probably be married already.

As social norms shift and pressures on women relax somewhat, more and more women (gay and not) are choosing to not walk down the aisle. What this means for the guys, of course, is a shrinking marriageable market. The consequences of all this are yet to be seen.

#NoMarriage movement sees South Korean women reject Government pressures to marry and have kids

By Yasmin Jeffery

Posted Wed 31 Jul 2019 at 2:46pmWednesday 31 Jul 2019 at 2:46pm, updated Wed 31 Jul 2019 at 3:39pmWednesday 31 Jul 2019 at 3:39pm

Moensan is 26, unmarried, childless and plans to keep it that way.(Supplied: Moensan)

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“Aren’t you lonely?” This is a question student Moensan is used to being asked.

Key points:

  • Declining marriage rates in South Korea are lowering the birth rate, leaving the country with an ageing society
  • The Government has been criticised for its efforts to push women towards dating, marriage and childbirth
  • The YouTubers behind the #NoMarriage movement say officials need to listen to the reasons women are deciding not to marry

The 26-year-old, who lives in a provincial city in South Korea, is unmarried and childless — and plans to keep it that way.

“There are many things I want to do in life that you can’t do if you get married,” she said.

Of course, being firm on her decision not to get married doesn’t mean she never feels lonely.

But, Moensan said, the occasional feeling “doesn’t mean I need to go on a date or get married. I just want person-to-person association. A relationship with someone I can talk to, empathise with, and truly understand”.

“I’m lonely sometimes, but I don’t need a man!”

Moensan is far from alone. South Korea — a country where dating, marriage and having children have long been entrenched ideals — has experienced a significant decrease in marriage rates.

And according to data collated by Statistics Korea, it is only getting worse.

Last year, 257,600 marriages were registered, compared to 305,500 in 2014, prompting the Government to make various attempts to get more women to walk down the aisle.

This is where Seoul YouTubers Jung Se-young and Baeck Ha-na come in.

The unmarried, child-free activists are leading the call to normalise the decisions of Korean women like Moensan not to get married or have children with their channel.

Both told the ABC they had felt a pressure to get married before reaching a certain age.

But, after being introduced to feminism, they said they started to realise how Korean society pushed women towards marriage.

“In my case, my regional background led to my decision,” Ms Jung said.

“I was born in Gyeongsang Province, which is considered the most conservative region of Korea.

Baeck Ha-na, left, and Jung Se-young are trying to normalise remaining single.(Supplied: Jung Se-young and Baeck Ha-na)

“I saw with my own eyes how married women are treated and discriminated against, so I decided marriage does not help women at all.”

Over the past five months, the duo has amassed more than 24,000 subscribers to their YouTube channel SOLOdarity, where they discuss government intervention and share what life is like for a “bi-hon” — someone who chooses not to marry or have children.

Ms Baeck is also part of the network Elite without Marriage, I am Going Forward (EMIF), through which members meet to talk about marriage, children, and life without either.

There are many reasons people choose to be childfree. Readers share their thoughts on overpopulation, furbabies and freedom.

And now, thanks to a nifty hashtag encapsulating their movement, #NoMarriage, they are making headlines.

The aim of the #NoMarriage movement is to push the Government to react and to spark a change in expectations in South Korea, where “women are considered to be subject to family ownership, and women who say they don’t want to marry become a target of attack,” Ms Baeck told the ABC.

“It has to change and we will make it change.”