NY TIMES - Aug 6 - In South Korea, the Ministry of Health and Welfare began promoting the idea of dating parties in 2010. Under the enthusiastic leadership of its minister at the time, Cheon Jae-hee, it held four parties that year that brought together its workers and employees at local corporations. Since then, sponsorship of the parties has shifted mainly to ministry affiliates and local governments, which can win financial rewards for activities that promote marriage and childbirth. One government-financed agency, the Planned Population Federation of Korea, claims a different kind of victory: by hosting parties, it is working to undo its past success when it encouraged vasectomies as a booming South Korea feared being held back by population growth. Corporations, fearing critical shortages of workers in an aging society, have begun ending informal bans against office romances, with some now paying for dating services for their workers. In 2011, the average age of a first marriage for South Korean women hit 29.14, up from 24.8 in 1990; for men it jumped to 31.8 from 27.9 in 1990. The birthrate sunk to 1.15 children per woman, the lowest among the world’s most developed countries.
by Su-Hyun Lee
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