Women in South Korea are freezing their eggs due to social norms on marriage and family planning and a surge in housing and education costs.
Lim Eun-young, a 34-year-old public servant, said she is not ready to start a family due to the potential expenses and had some of her eggs frozen last November due to worries about her age.
Lim was one of approximately 1,200 unmarried single women who underwent the procedure last year at CHA Medical Center.
CHA is the most prominent fertility clinic chain in South Korea, accounting for about 30% of the IVF market.
“It’s a big relief, and it gives me peace of mind to know that I have healthy eggs frozen right here,” Eun-young said.
The highly competitive and expensive education system in South Korea is a primary reason for its residents’ reservations about having children.
“We hear from married couples and watch reality TV shows about how expensive it is to raise kids in terms of education costs and everything, and all these worries translate to fewer marriages and babies,” Eun-young said.
Cho So-Young, a 32-year-old nurse at CHA, will freeze her eggs this coming July.
“If I get married now and give birth, I can’t give my baby the kind of environment I had when I grew up… I want better housing, a better neighborhood, and better food to eat,” So-Young said.
According to Numbeo, the estimated monthly costs for a family of four in South Korea are about 3,700 USD, excluding rent.
However, despite South Korean women being able to freeze their eggs, they cannot legally proceed with a sperm donation and embryo implanting unless they are married.
Jung Jae-hoon, a social welfare studies professor at Seoul Women’s University, said that marriages in South Korea declined to a new record low of 192,500 in 2021.
“The least the government can do is to not get in the way of those out there who are willing to shoulder the financial burden of having a baby,” Jae-hoon said.
In a survey conducted in 2020 by the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family in South Korea, almost half of South Koreans in their 20s said they would prefer to be part of a couple that does not have children after marriage in 2020, in a jump from 2015.
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