Local governments arrange blind dates to address Korea's record-low birth rate

By Kim Dong-young Posted : May 27, 2024, 10:23 Updated : May 27, 2024, 10:23
Couples enjoy warmer weather on Haeundae Beach in Busan on May 6 2024 Yonhap
Couples enjoy warmer weather on Haeundae Beach in Busan on May 6, 2024. Yonhap

SEOUL, May 27 (AJU PRESS) - As more young Koreans put off marriage, local governments are rolling up their sleeves to arrange blind dates to tackle Korea's super-low birth rate. These include various events from group meetings to recreational games to give a chance of romance in hopes of reversing the country's dwindling population.

A district office in Daegu, southeastern Korea made its first foray into a dating project in 2016. The program called "GoGo meeting" has been running for eight years, resulting in about 14 married couples so far. Couples who get hitched through the program are eligible to receive a 500,000 won ($360) worth of money voucher for home appliances and other essentials, provided that they submit their marriage certificates or other official proofs of marriage. A district official there said, "We plan to come up with fresh programs and new ideas to attract more would-be brides and grooms."

Following suit, other local districts have rushed to come up with similar matchmaking services to encourage young people to get married.

The satellite city of Seongnam in Gyeonggi Province has been hosting the so-called "SOLO MON" dating event since last year. In just two weeks after the city's notice for this year's first event in late April, the city's website was inundated with over 1,200 applicants wishing to participate. It plans to host four more such meet-ups later this year.

The southern port city of Busan offered an all-day dating course last weekend for some 40 aspiring lovebirds under the name of "Haeundae Rendezvous" which included diverse fun activities such as treasure hunting and sand festivals. The city also plans to launch a monthly interracial dating program in September to "accept foreigners as part of the Korean community," according to a city official. It aims to expand the scope of such events next year to include foreign workers and exchange students.

There is no exception for the administrative capital of Sejong, home to many relocated government workers. Many of them have benefited from incentives for couples with children to find homes there, so the city's birth rate still remains higher than that of other regions in Korea. But its population has been declining sharply in recent years, prompting the city to come up with similar dating programs.

Earlier this month, the city arranged an event where about a dozen out of 80 participants formed couples through small talks and recreational games. A city official expressed gratitude for their enthusiasm and pledged to "provide a healthy meeting channel for unmarried young people."

These efforts by local governments may increase marriages, but some doubt their effectiveness in raising birth rates. Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon attempted a dating event called "Seoul meeTing" in June last year to encourage young people to meet and socialize, as the capital has the lowest birth rate of 0.55 in Korea. But the initiative met strong oppositions, with critics arguing that simply providing young people with the opportunity to form couples is not a fundamental solution to the declining birth rate. The event was eventually canceled.

Korea's fertility rate or the number of children born to a woman over her lifetime dropped to a historic low of 0.72 in 2023 and is expected to fall further this year, making Korea the only country among the OECD countries with a fertility rate below one. With the number of newborns not exceeding the number of the deceased, there are even grim predictions that the country could be at risk of extinction if this demographic trend continues.
기사 이미지 확대 보기