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Single and proud: S. Korean YouTuber’s viral embrace of solo life

“Not getting married is my greatest achievement,” 37-year-old Seen told AFP.

Copyright AFP ANTHONY WALLACE
Copyright AFP ANTHONY WALLACE
Claire LEE

South Korea has declared its super-low birthrate a “national emergency” and poured billions into encouraging citizens to marry and reproduce, but one YouTuber has found happiness and success promoting the opposite ideal.

At her home in rural South Korea, Seen Aromi practices yoga, sleeps in as long as she wants and encourages her more than 200,000 YouTube followers to not feel afraid, ashamed or guilty about being single.

“Not getting married is my greatest achievement,” 37-year-old Seen told AFP, saying that she had never seen becoming a “good” wife or mother as the ultimate purpose of her life.

“They say it’s a ‘disaster'” that women are not having children in South Korea, she said, referring to official concern over the looming demographic crisis in the country, which has the world’s lowest birth rate and a rapidly ageing population.

“But when I think about the potential downsides of not having children, (for me) there is nothing,” she added.

Seen wrote about the joy she found in opting out of society’s expectations and embracing solo living, and her book — “I Can’t Help but Live Well On My Own” — has become a surprise hit.

It briefly topped a major bestseller chart in South Korea, with an enthusiastic response not only from other single women in their 30s, but also from an older generation, including people who had been widowed or divorced.

She enthused in the book about having “the freedom to be as lazy as I want” and not being criticised for it.

“While some people might marry because they dislike being alone, others choose not to meet anyone simply because they enjoy lying around,” she wrote.

– Traditional trappings –

Experts have suggested that many young Koreans opt out of marriage and child-rearing at least in part for economic reasons, pointing to stagnant growth, sky-high home prices in the capital Seoul, and intense competition for well-paying jobs.

Others say broader cultural issues are at play. The country remains socially conservative, single parenthood is frowned upon, same-sex marriage is not recognised, and married women often end up leaving the workforce — data shows they spend 3.5 times more hours a day on household chores and childcare than male spouses.

“Traditionally defined gender role expectations in the family domain as well as tension between genders are definitely related to the current low birthrate,” Hyeyoung Woo, a sociology professor at Portland State University, told AFP.

For Seen, letting go of the traditional South Korean trappings of success — a Seoul apartment, a high-paying job, a loving spouse — has allowed her to find genuine happiness.

“I’ve never worked for a big conglomerate, do not live in the city, and never been married,” she told AFP.

Her life in Seoul was miserable, Seen told AFP, as she had to suffer through an exhausting commute and a stressful, abusive workplace.

After living overseas for years, working random jobs from hotel housekeeper to packing meat in a chicken factory, and posting videos about her life online, she returned to South Korea and settled in a rural town.

She renovated an old family house that used to belong to her late grandfather and her YouTube channel grew in popularity, eventually picking up more than 200,000 subscribers for her posts, which deal with everything from living alone to travelling, fitness and yoga.

A single YouTube video now earns her five times more than she used to get monthly as a salaried worker in Seoul, and she can “live a much more autonomous life — which is extremely satisfying,” she said.

– Backlash –

Her social media posts about her joyful single life have attracted backlash online, with critics claiming that in reality, Seen must be lonely, or calling her “selfish” for not getting married.

“Married people often post photos of their children and share happy images of their married life, and no one really criticises that,” Seen said.

“But when I said I was happy, (some people) strongly denied it. They seemed to think ‘there’s no way that could be true’.”

Seen said she had been in several fulfilling relationships, but her autonomy and adventurous lifestyle are her top priority, over starting a family.

The fact that her book has become a runaway success proves that you “can still be the best at something even though you live a non-mainstream life,” she said.

Most couples who have children do it because it will make them happy, not out of concern for humanity’s future — and people who live alone have also made choices aimed at happiness, which should be respected, she said.

Seen told AFP that she was proud of her contributions to the world.

While others were having children, she said, “I gave birth to two YouTube channels and a book”.

AFP
Written By

With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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