SEOUL, Jan. 15 (Korea Bizwire) — Despite the family-friendly image of traditional holidays, a significant number of couples file for divorce around traditional family holidays such as Lunar New Year and Chuseok.
Data from the National Court Administration shows that nearly twice as many married couples file for divorce during the 10 days before and after family-oriented holidays like Seollal (Lunar New Year) and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving).
In 2016, 577 married couples on average decided to break up within 10 days of the two traditional holidays, compared to the average figure of 298 during the rest of the year.
Over 1 in 10 divorces were filed in 2016 in the aftermath of traditional holidays, spiking to a record high of 1,076 cases on the day after the Chuseok holiday.
Park So-hyun, a senior official at the Korea Legal Aid Center for family relations, says small arguments can cause couples to have a falling out and even ruin a marriage around New Year and Chuseok.
“Arguments over everyday issues like household responsibilities and respect for each other’s family add fuel to the fire,” Park said.
Some even draw a parallel with the U.K., where the first Sunday of the year is called ‘Divorce Day’ among lawyers, due to the soaring number of married people seeking legal advice for divorce during the time.
Around the traditional holidays, South Korean online communities for mothers are often filled with comments left by housewives who have had enough.
“I can see why divorce soars after the holidays. I’ve always held off screaming and shouting in front of my parents. Should I get divorced finally?” one comment read in an extremely frustrated tone.
Another comment said, “I’m getting divorced on this uplifting holiday. I have been hiding my hardships and didn’t complain for the past 10 years, but I don’t think I can do it anymore. It’s been a tough marriage.”
Though reasons for getting a divorce vary depending on individual circumstances, those that occur around the holidays were typically related to family issues.
A study conducted by online job search engine Career in 2014 revealed that over 1 in 5 married employees saw tension with parents-in-law as the most challenging factor for couples.
Nearly 17 percent of the respondents said discriminatory behavior towards each family causes couples to argue, while nearly as many couples fought over family visit schedules.
Another issue under the shadow of the traditional family-friendly images of Seollal and Chuseok is domestic violence.
Data from the National Police Agency published at the request of lawmaker Lee Jae-jung shows that around 970 reports of domestic violence were filed on average during the holiday season between 2014 and 2017.
The figure is nearly 40 percent higher than during the rest of the year.
The Daegu Metropolitan Police Agency presents even more worrying figures for domestic violence reports around the holidays during last year.
During the five-day Chuseok holiday in 2017, the number of domestic violence reports soared by nearly 85 percent, with police projecting a similar trend this year.
Experts say that treating family members with respect and consideration is a key to avoiding escalation.
“Excessive drinking during the holidays should be avoided as it can lead to domestic violence, and efforts to understand and consider other family members are important. However, if you experience domestic violence, report it to police, instead of hiding it to save face,” a police official said.
Daegu’s Healthy Family Support Center recommends dialogue.
“Instead of re-experiencing the same trouble every holiday, solving issues through dialogue with a partner or seeking counseling with an expert could be an option.”
Ashley Song (firstname.lastname@example.org)