Jolhon: A Korean Alternative to Divorce?

In Korea Jolhon is increasingly becoming an alternative to divorce for many long time married couples. Known as Sotzcon in Japan and first proposed in the 2004 book I Recommend Graduating From Marriage by Yumiko Sugiyama the idea has since spread to Korea, with its most notable proponent being Baek Il Seob from Grandpas Over Flowers. Although still legally married to his wife of 40 years, he has not seen his wife in well over a year. He famously said he had ‘graduated from marriage’ on a well known Korean variety show. In his case he said it was because they did not get along.

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Jolhon is the idea that each marriage partner can design a “secondary life after a long dutiful marriage” while they stay legally married to each other. They live as individuals not as a couple. As of yet there is no set definition of exactly what this means and some couples appear to still love each other and see each other occasionally, while some see it as a way to live apart without the social stigma of divorce.

The divorce rate in Korea is surprisingly quite high, with gray, or twilight divorces being a large contributor to that number. Even with the social stigma, that includes it reflecting badly on family members, and that it is frowned on by multiple religions many seniors feel the need to fulfil dreams that they put off while bringing up children, or to just live a ‘life for themselves’.

The trend seems likely to become more popular as more and more women don’t see much of a future within a marriage after the children have left home. With one of the longest life expectancies in the world many expect to live half their life after that point and wish for more than just staying to look after their husbands. They ‘want to live free with minimal marital obligations’. Jolhon allows them to do that.

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I first came across the idea in the recent Kdrama Man Who Sets The Table and on looking into it find it an interesting concept. Here in the US we have ‘being separated’ but that is often a stepping stone on the road to divorce. Jolhon seems to actually be an alternative that is working out for many couples in Korea and Japan.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Hanji: The Paper Of Korea,   Korea Without The Chili Pepper! and  Easy On The Eyes: Korean Models Turned Actors.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. Photos to original owners.

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