The previous high was 9,741 babies in 1981 but the number fell to 5,200 in 1989. In 1994, it made an upward reverse to top 9,000. The figure again dropped to 4,200 in 1997 but has steadily increased since 2003.
In the early 1980s, the high number of babies born to unmarried parents was due to lack of social awareness on contraception. The higher number in recent years, however, was linked to shifting social attitudes on marriage and childbirth.
Consequently, the number of babies born out of wedlock among overall newborns in Korea rose to 2.1 percent last year, a steady increase from 1 percent in 2001, 1.5 percent in 2005, and 2 percent in 2009.
The percentage of babies in Korea born to a single parent, however, remains one of the lowest among member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The organization’s average rate was just 11 percent in 1980 but increased to 36.3 percent in 2009.
As of 2009, more than half of newborns were born out of wedlock in Iceland (64.1 percent), Mexico (55.1 percent), Sweden (54.7 percent) and France (52.6 percent). The figure in the UK was 45.4 percent and that of the Netherlands 41.2 percent.