Women in South Korea are spearheading a new #NoMarriage social media hashtag after it was revealed that the South-East Asian country had tied with Puerto Rico for the lowest overall rates of fertility, with only seven children being born per 1,000 people.
However, it's not just a social media trend.
According to recent reports, a slight majority of women in South Korea now feel that marriage is unnecessary, leading to the formation of a new women's network called 'EMIF', standing for 'Elite Without Marriage, I am Going Forward.'
Popular South Korean YouTuber Baeck Ha-Na is one of the public figures backing the cultural shift.
“Society made me feel like a failure for being in my 30s and not yet a wife or a mother," Baeck told Bloomberg.
"Instead of belonging to someone, I now have a more ambitious future for myself."
Jung Se-young, who co-hosts Baeck’s YouTube channel, added: “This traditional role enforced on us from a boys-only soccer field at school, to a boys club in a company office already makes us second-class citizens, and I don’t want to be used as a tool simply for baby-making.”
With one in five wedding halls in Seoul closing down as a result of the social trend, lawmakers are said to be devising incentive policies and programs, including childcare subsidies and longer paternity leaves.
However, EMIF’s founder, Kang Han-byul, said that South Korean women were tired of being ignored by the government.
“The government’s biggest problem is that they aren’t listening to the women - the actual subjects that have to bear the children and have to raise the children,” she said, according to Fox News.
“They try to sell this idea that a family is beautiful, having children is beautiful, when there’s many unspoken things that actually happen to the woman physically, mentally - which is why these policies will never win us over.”
Speaking to the South China Morning Post, Shin Gi-wook, a sociology professor and expert on South Korean politics, said the country's government would need to introduce fundamental changes in how it views gender roles if it hoped to ease the growing backlash against marriage and motherhood.
“Social support systems are not in place [and] social institutions are still male-driven and male-centric,” he said.
“The multiple roles working women are expected to continue to play in the family and in society – as mums, wives, daughters-in-law… make it difficult for them to prioritise marriage and motherhood over their careers.”