|▲ A person who lives alone|
There are many people these days, that split their time living between two homes, for convenience, but also sometimes out of necessity. This split living arrangement is often due to a need to be closer to work, or school, but the people return home to their primary residence on the weekend, to be with family and friends. There are also people who choose to live alone, known as single person households, but their circumstances are very different. They make their decision as a part of personal choice rather than necessity or convenience.
To understand what split living is like, The Dankook Herald (DKH) interviewed Park Su-hyeong (36). There are two reasons why he has this way of life. The first reason was a problem of nurture. His hometown is Gwangju and his wife is from Pohang, but their jobs were in Seoul. After the birth of their child, there was no one to take care of their baby and she was too young to send to school. For this reason, his wife decided to return home to Pohang and be closer to her parents who could help look after the child. His job remained closer to Seoul, so the family decided to split live, so he could be closer to work and she could be closer to child care.
The second reason they chose split living was economics. Mr. Park is a contract worker, so it is impossible to predict if his job will last, or where he will work next. “If I was rich, I could buy a house and just settle there, but I am not. My wife and I are like many other young couples these days, who have to take dramatic steps like this to build for a better future. The uncertainty of my job has forced us to live separately, and me alone,” he said of his reason for split living.
According to Mr. Park, the best advantage of split living is having a lot of free time. He usually spends it hanging out with his friends, or with an English conversation study group. He also suggested this living arrangement may even make him a better employee. While his coworkers, who have children at home, are more tired at work and can easily doze off during the day, he can stay focused on work, because he is well rested.
However, he cautioned that there are also disadvantages to split living. He said, “At first, I was really amused being alone, but after the first month, I started to feel lonely. There is no one to greet me when I return home at night. As a result, I’m much lazier and seldom do the housework.” He began socializing with people to overcome his loneliness. He participates in social meetings, like study groups, to fill up his spare time more productively.
He concluded that “A part time house represents a sign of our times. Many young people can’t strike out by themselves, even though it may be their time to stand alone. I think it is a tragedy of this era. I thought living alone would be a golden opportunity to have free time, but this contentment lasted for a very short period. Humans are social creatures and need company. We are better off when we live together. I live alone now, but I realize this lifestyle would be very difficult to maintain over the long term, so I am planning on living with my family again this winter. If there is someone out there thinking of split location living, I would suggest they keep in that mind that the fun of it is just a dream. It is true that I have been enriched by this choice, however, it wasn’t easy and I would not do it again.”
The main difference between split living and living with family, is the time spent at home. As a result, people splitting their time between two residences require much smaller houses and appliances and less consumable items, household furniture or accessories. To meet this market demand, construction companies are building mini houses, and product manufacturers are producing compact kitchenware and more efficient space furniture. These products sometimes cost more and cater to people with higher disposable incomes and discerning styles.
|▲ The growing number of one-person households in Korea|
Another new phenomenon in Korea is the fact that many people are staying single longer. The so-called ‘Solo economy phenomenon’, has also encouraged the development of industries tailored to single lifestyles and there are several reasons why this kind of trend is on the rise. According to the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, there were 4.1 million single-person households in Korea in 2010, of which 2.2 million were women and 1.9 million were men. Marriages are being delayed as the education level of single females rises along with their participation in the workforce. In the 1990’s, the average age for Korean men to marry 27.8 and for women it was 24.8. However, in 2010, the average age jumped up to 31.8 for men and 28.9 for women.
The institution noted that they too expected a further expansion of economic contributions by single-person households in the future. In 2010, total spending by single-person households was 60 trillion won, a figure which is expected to double by 2020. Market research indicates that single person households adhere to what has become known as the 4S’s; small, smart, selfish, and service and as a result, more and more companies are trying to satisfy those needs. We can already find many compact household appliances for single person households. There are washing machines that can be hung on a wall, mini pressure rice cookers and mini ovens now flooding the market.
In the past, companies manufactured products suitable for a family of 4-5 people. But nowadays it has all changed. In 2012, Daewoo electronics released a wall-mounted washing machine that is less than 30cm thick. It was such a hit with consumers that the company sold over 100,000. From then on, compact microwaves, refrigerators and ovens have been a huge hit because of their space saving designs and reasonable prices. The increase in single person households has also led to the development of new service industries to Korea. These days we can find laundromats, rental shops, and even housekeeping services for single person households.
Additionally, builders are producing more studio apartments to meet the growing demand for individual housing. Even grocery stores and restaurants are adjusting to the new market realities. Before, consumers were forced to buy large quantities of food that were prepacked appropriately for larger families. No matter how good it was, buying it in large quantities was a waste of money for single person households. However, times have changed Since 2012, Home-plus, a supermarket chain in Korea began selling smaller packages of prepared meals such as green salads and sliced fruits. Their sales performance increased by about 12%. In 2013, the chain of fast food restaurants called Pizza-hut, released a special menu for those eating only for one. Cafes, including Paris Baguette and Café bene, also began selling single servings of shaved ice with syrup.
There has also been an increase in the number of restaurants aimed at people eating alone. For example, the Japanese ramen restaurant Ichiban, provides small table seating appropriate for one person. Also, the beef restaurant Fukuoka Hamburger Steak, has a special mini appliance to grill their menu, which is allocated to each guest.
With the growing access to single sized products and services, many consumers can enjoy things alone, that they were never able to do before, but it still isn’t perfect. Many things remain suitable for larger groups only. The National Statistical Office (NSO) in Korea found that single person households account for 27.2% of the housing market, and this number is expected to increase to 35% by 2035.
This is not just a Korean trend, but rather it is a global direction the world is taking. There are new descriptions marking these changes lifestyle such as DINK meaning dual income earning couples with no kids, DINKPET meaning DINK, but with a pet, and the Neo-single generation, which are people who enjoy living alone, earn a lot of money and live in a digital age. As a result of this shift in household configurations, a wide range of industries shifted focus towards compact products in an attempt to capitalize on the new market preferences and personal tastes.
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