Longer life expectancy and new attitude toward remarriage led to a ten-fold increase in the remarriage rate for adults over 50 in just three decades
Secrets to a successful second marriage: love and faith
Remarriages amongst middle-aged singles have soared due to gains in life expectancy and changed attitude toward a second marriage. However, remarrying does not guarantee greater life satisfaction because a couple has to deal with additional complications that did not exist in the first marriage.
Statistics Korea reports a rapid increase in the number of people getting remarried. For the past 30 years, while men who went on to marry again rose by 93.5%, the figure went up by 227.6% for women. Between 1982 and 2012, while the share of men 50 and over expanded from 15.5% to 35.6%, it went from 6% to 21.8% for women.
The trend is clear among business leaders as well. On December 25, 2013, Gu Hakseo who currently serves as Co-Chairman of Shinsegae Co., Ltd. and Kim Eunkyung, a senior research fellow at the Korean Institute of Criminology, joined in a second marriage. In November 2013, Kyobo Life CEO Shin Changjae entered into a second marital relationship with a woman in her early forties. Upon marriage, she is reported to have retired as a member of the faculty at Ewha Womans University, her alma mater. Last April, Dongwon Group Chairman Kim Jaechul remarried a woman in her sixties. In 2009, Park Yonghyun, the former chairman of Doosan Group, got married again to Yoon Boyung, a twenty-year younger doctor.
“Longer life expectancy, an increase in late-life divorce, and more social support for remarriage are driving the current trend. Nevertheless, concerns about inheritance and getting children’s consent are the remaining obstacles to re-partnership,” said Jung Miyung, a director at the Gyeonggi Counseling Center for the Elderly.
According to a 72-year-old man in Jongno-gu, Seoul, “To remarry, there are more things to consider than in the first marriage. I know some people who found a date in dance studios or music cafes. But few people actually go onto marry due to lack of financial resources and children’s consent.”
Against this backdrop, many senior couples prefer cohabitation over marriage. Since 2011, over 500 senior citizens have participated in a group dating organized by the Incheon City government. Among 11 couples formed, none registered their marriage. An official said, “As far as I know, two couples live together. But not one couple has officially married.”
Re-partnered couples stay unregistered because they want to avoid complicated problems they encounter once they tie the knot. Indeed, many remarried couples receive counseling due to various reasons: conflicts with children over inheritance and challenges resulting from excessively high expectations of one another. In general, wives suffer when husbands later turn out to be patriarchal and fail to live up to their promises. In contrast, husbands feel pressured when their wives want more than they actually can provide. In some other cases, children tired from quarrels over succession persuade their parent into getting a divorce.
Cho Kyungae from the Korea Legal Aid Center for Family Relations says, “Numerous couples experience conflicts. While some husbands break their promises to register a marriage or to provide enough money to pay bills, some wives are not truly appreciated as a mother. For a successful remarriage, partners need to put much time and energy to know one another before they walk down the aisle. In second marriages, people have higher tendency to prioritize wealth above everything else. However, as in first marriages, a relationship should be built on love and trust.”
In a significant number of cases, children from a prior marriage drive a wedge between parties to a second union. With the Act on Inheritance recently revised, a surviving spouse has a priority to claim half of the inherited property. To protect their inheritance, more children from a previous union are expected to oppose their parent’s remarriage.
Yang Jeongja, the chief director at the Korea Family Legal Service Center, offered one piece of helpful advice. “A couple drifts apart when a wife desires too much love which was missing during her first marriage, while a husband does nothing but demands obedience and enacts traditional gender roles. For second and subsequent marriages to succeed, a couple should keep in mind that the key is to enjoy one another’s company for the rest of their lives and to stay committed even in sickness."