Monday 19 August 2019

School for seduction: South Korea tries to raise birth rate

South Korea flag
South Korea flag

Jinna Park

In a country experiencing one of the worst birth rates in the world, two South Korean universities are now offering courses that make it mandatory for students to date their classmates.

Professors at Dongguk and Kyung Hee universities in the capital, Seoul, say the courses on dating, sex, love and relationships aim to help reverse the trend where the younger generation are shunning traditional family lives.

A sharp decline in marriage has given rise to the new term "sampo generation", referring to young people who have given up on courtship, wedlock and childbirth because of economic pressures such as housing costs, unemployment and tuition fees.

Professor Jang Jae-sook, who founded a 'Marriage and Family' course at Dongguk university, said students were being taught how to find the right partner and sustain healthy relationships.

"Korea's fall in population has made dating and marriage important... but young Koreans are too busy these days and clumsy in making new acquaintances," she said.

Those enrolling on the course have to date three classmates for a month each. After introductions, they submit who they want to be coupled with to the professor. Homework includes going on dates and discussing scenarios such as jealousy and conflict.

Although matchmaking is not the course's ultimate goal, it has produced at least one marriage and a couple of long-term relationships.

Ms Jang designed the curriculum to include dating in the belief that learning from real-life experience is as important as studying theory.

The course has expanded to Kyong Hee university, which offers 'Love and Marriage' classes, and Inha university in Incheon, ranked 18th best in the country and renowned for its engineering education, where students can now sign up to lessons on prioritising success and love.

Compared with a decade ago, South Korea's younger generation appears to have more difficulty maintaining romantic relationships. In 2016 the number of marriages hit its lowest since 1977, according to data from Statistics Korea, a government agency. The crude marriage rate - the annual number of marriages per 1,000 people - was 5.5 last year, compared with 295.1 when statistics began in 1970.

Officials blame youth unemployment and weak maternity leave policies. Over the past decade, the government has spent about €60bn trying to boost the birth rate.


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