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A startling number men and women in their 20s and 30s have given up dating, marrying, and having kids. 

A startling number men and women in their 20s and 30s have given up dating, marrying, and having kids. 

Illustrator: Dani Choi for Bloomberg Markets

Markets
Markets Magazine

South Korea Crosses a Population Rubicon in Warning to the World

Living alone and childless is becoming a way of life for a younger generation—with dramatic consequences for one of Asia’s most successful economies.

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They’re called the Sampo Generation: South Koreans in their 20s and 30s who’ve given up (po) three (sam) of life’s conventional rites of passage—dating, marrying, and having children. They’ve made these choices because of economic constraints and in the process have worsened Korea’s demographic imbalances. Last year, when the country registered more deaths than births for the first time in recent history, then-Vice Finance Minister Kim Yong-beom pronounced the milestone a “death cross.”

I Live Alone is one of Korea’s most popular reality‑TV shows. It follows the single lives of movie actors and K-pop singers engaging in mundane activities such as feeding their pets or eating ramen noodles in the middle of the night—all alone. People living alone already make up almost 40% of the population. Honbap (a solo meal) has worked its way into everyday language; there’s even a lunchbox brand called Honbap Day.