Disco lights are spinning. The young woman belts out the final line of the song and the room falls silent. There is no applause.

Ms Lee Seung Hyun, 21, is alone at her weekly singing session at a coin noraebang — one of Korea’s ubiquitous pay-per-song karaoke booths. “I like to go to the coin noraebang with friends, but sometimes I just feel like coming here alone because I can sing without waiting for other people,” says Ms Lee, a business student from Yonsei University.

With falling birth rates and rising divorce rates, South Korea is seeing an uptick in businesses focusing on solo consumers. This has had a ripple effect, with more people embracing time spent alone. “Korean society is beginning to move away from the ‘herd mentality’ and towards individual pursuits of happiness,” says associate professor of sociology at Harvard University Paul Chang.

Karaoke cubicles like the one Ms Lee visited in Sinchon are peppered all over Seoul. A song typically costs 250 won (S$0.30).

The Case For One documents the emerging solo economy of South Korea, following the rise of one-person households in the nation.

2017