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Birth rates here have plunged, and are among the world's lowest.The Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs estimates that by 2100, nearly half of South Korea's population (48.2 per cent) will be 65 or older.In fact, it was part of a course at are sharing their first Valentine's Day as a couple — another match made in professor Jae Sook Jang's love, sex and healthy relationships course, which requires students to date each other in three randomly assigned pairings, over separate dating "missions."If that sounds forced, so be it, said professor Jang, who devised the curriculum 10 years ago amid concerns about plummeting marriage and birth rates in South Korea."The class is about dating and love, but it's not meant to encourage people to be in relationships.There are lots of people against dating and against relationships these days in Korea," Jang said.He was too anxiety-ridden about an upcoming job interview to notice his lab partner was courting him.Lee figured their random pairing and compulsory lunch date was merely another academic obligation before he joins the workforce.Most of her girlfriends don't want to have kids, reasoning it would be too difficult to balance family with work pressures.

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It's an independent thing.'"Students enter college consumed by anxieties about career prospects, Jang said, but don't often parcel out as much time anymore to date."A chance for these young people to date, even as part of a course, is part of the appeal."The professor is encouraged by her class's popularity. Only 60 spots open on a first-come, first-served basis."Everybody knows at grew up believing she would eventually wed someone and have children."But nowadays, I'm starting to feel that having a child is maybe a burden." Even if she does marry someone, friends dismiss her aspirational nuclear family as improbable. Good luck with that.'"Jang's class emphasizes healthy relationships, not necessarily family or fertility.

"But I do believe you should at least try and date, to try to be in a relationship once, to know if it's right for you."The desire to create love connections between classmates is perhaps understandable in baby-bereft South Korea.

The new economics of singledom is breeding despair among a so-called "Sampo Generation," or "triple abandonment" cohort — people in their 20s and 30s who are too worried about financial security to pursue marriage, home ownership or parenthood.

Jang said her lectures about warning-sign behaviours — snooping a partner's text messages, imposing curfews, dictating what someone should wear — are illuminating for many of her pupils."I felt like I learned what behaviours were OK and what I shouldn't tolerate," said Hyeun Ae Jang, 24, a student who enrolled in the course in the fall after experiencing dating abuse by a controlling ex.

Jang said her professor has brightened her outlook on romantic relationships and possibly motherhood.

' I learned what I shouldn't put up with and what not to tolerate,' she said.

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