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Deputy PM Hwang Woo-yea’s project to reduce singles

Posted March. 24, 2015 07:13,   


The office of Deputy Prime Minister for Society and Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea at the Government Complex Sejong has two large wooden panels hanging on one of the walls. One displays the trend of suicides committed by elementary, middle and high school students. It showcases his commitment to preventing suicides as the nation’s education czar. Another is something unexpected. The panel entitled "trend of singles among the Education Ministry employees" displays statistics of unmarried ministry employees who are categorized by age and job rank.

The panel was recently created at the instruction of Hwang, who said, “Staff members will be able to work in a creative fashion if they form a good family.” Although it only displays data on the Education Ministry’s situation, it sufficiently showcases the current face of Korean society that is heading towards "non-marriage society." Of 615 ministry staff including those on leave of absence and overseas study, 106 are singles, which translates into one in six people. This number excludes people who became "singles" due to a spouse`s death or divorces.

People with strong job security who also stand to benefit from handsome pensions after retirement would be considered highly popular as a spouse candidate, but many remain unmarried, which is quite surprising but is a reality. According to statistics on singles, 90 percent are those in their 30s or older, and females account for 74.5 percent. The fact that women take the majority would be a reflection of the situation wherein the so called "gold misses" who are highly educated and have strong education and career records have failed to meet partners meeting their high standards. Among Grade 5 civil servants, majority of whom are those who passed the High Civil Service Exam, single men amount to 10 in total, while single women come to as many as 17. Given the characteristics of Sejong City, a district that is quite isolated like an island, single men and women would have few chances and places to meet with others.

Hwang, who lost his wife 10 years ago, apparently feels the importance of family more strongly than anyone else. He reportedly have said, “It is okay for senior staff to work overtime late at night, but they should get their staff members marry at younger ages. I will prevent managers from winning promotion to directors.” He criticized the practice of forcing staff to stay in office until late at night at the pretext of work. Some might criticize his acts as interference in others’ affairs, saying, “We are already busy enough and hardly have time to take care of unmarried employees.” Nevertheless, because Hwang is the deputy prime minister for society who is comprehensively responsible for the nation’s ultralow birthrate, it may not be completely beyond the scope of his duties. Marriage at older ages and low birthrate have become the issues of critical important and urgency in Korea.