Dating In South Korea

What its like to date in South Korea–from dating culture to typical dates to blind dates and even how BIG age differences sometimes don’t even matter.

Love always seems to be in the air in South Korea. Koreans even have romantic holidays– one for each month, which puts Valentine’s Day in North America to shame!

Dating In South Korea

In this blog post I’ll tell you about dating in South Korea and (very briefly) take you to a world similar to that seen in everyone’s beloved Korean dramas– just in case you read Sex in South Korea and were wondering whether or not that world even existed.

Date Or Die?

Dating in South Korea is like breathing: Everyone does it, and if you don’t, then you’ll die a sad, slow death. Out and about in South Korea couples of all ages hold hands and can be spotted easily, especially if they’re wearing couple items. You’ll also see tables and specials solely for two.

But, why is dating, or 연애, so important in Korea? Well, dating is the best way to find a husband or wife and go on to get married and build a happy (or at least stable and secure) family; and, in Korea family matters.

It’s not all just about continuing bloodlines, either! So, here are some common questions a Korean mother will ask her son’s girlfriend, as seen on Mamma Mia (English subbed) at 28 minutes:

“Are your parents still alive?”

“What is your religion?”

“How many siblings do you have?”

“What do you do for a living?”

However, there are differences between generations, with the younger generation being slightly more westernized– if hooking up, casual dating and staying single in your 40’s are western concepts, ideas, etc. Arguably, they are, but let’s save that lesson for another time.

Typical Dates In South Korea

Typical dates between couples in South Korea tend to involve the same activities: Food at a cafe or restaurant; going to see a movie, play or baseball game; hiking; biking; sightseeing; and, date “courses”. *Shudders*

Date courses: Your boyfriend will plan an entire day, from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep. These are generally for short vacations, but they also occur commonly enough even when you’re not traveling.

If you like to leave things up to chance no matter where you are or how long you’ll be there, then date courses might be one of the most cringe-worthy and unacceptable aspects of dating in Korea for you.

Dutch pay in South Korea isn’t very common, but it is becoming more common among the younger, less traditional generation. Since dutch pay isn’t common, some Korean boys and men like to use coupons to save a buck or two.

Age Differences & Dating In South Korea

It is quite the norm for men in Korea to be much older than the girls and women they date or marry. Even Kim Soo Hyun said that he’ll get married to a 21 year old girl when he’s 41; and, here are some large age differences between a couple in Korea that is still just dating, a recently engaged couple in Korea and several married couples in Korea.

Baek Yoon Shik (actor): 30 years difference

Park Jin Young (JYP CEO): 9 years difference

Yang Hyun Suk (YG CEO): 12 years difference

Seo Tai Ji: 16 years difference

Lee Ju No: 23 years difference

For a longer list of married couples with BIG age gaps between them, check out this article; but, its not just older men and younger women who are falling in love, dating and tying the knot! Sometimes, it’s an older man and a younger man, too.

Kim Jo Kwang Soo (director, gay): 19 years difference

To take that statement where you were probably expecting it to go, in recent years it has become something of a trend for older women to date and even marry younger men– but not with such big age differences. For example, Baek Ji Young is nine years older than her husband, Jung Suk Won.

Values & Dating In South Korea

The age difference between older men and younger women who are dating or married is often quite large in South Korea. For me, perhaps because I am Nigerian-American, this age difference is somewhat shocking, but it is also understandable from the perspective of Korean culture.

In Korea, it is generally up to the man to prepare everything from events and bags and other gifts while dating and everything from a house to a car to a ring if he ever expects to tie the knot.

According to It’s Not Like on TV: “80% of Korean Men Without a Car and Home of Their Own Never Find Love“, not all Korean men are rich! (*sarcasm* Big surprise. *sarcasm*) And, not all Korean men can find love because they’re not rich, which says a lot about values in Korean society:

“The reason I was dumped by my last girlfriend was that I didn’t have a car and a home of my own. Her parents were completely against us being together.”

So, Korean men often get married when they are older– after going to army for two years and after working for “X” amount of years– older and thus, wealthier. Of course, this is definitely not always the case, but it seems to be the case more often compared to North America where couples support each other financially, allowing men to get married sooner rather than later.

However, in North America there are plenty of gold-digging young women who date and marry extremely old men just for their money, too. But, what do young Korean women look for– is it really just a expensive things and diamond rings? One survey might have an answer, but remember that all surveys have their flaws and faults and should be taken with a grain of salt.

Younger women in Korea who were interested in getting married said the following would be a “game-changer” for a potential husband who also happened to be a bad first date: 36 percent said the type of car he drives, 27 percent said his annual salary, 23 percent said if he looks charming in a suit, 11 percent said manners and sense and just three percent said humor and an ability to lead a conversation. 

To take a look at what Korean men had to say, check out the full article here.

Matchmaking

Matchmaking in South Korea is on another level, making speed dating and sites like OkCupid in North America look like child’s play. First, there are so many Korean variety shows devoted to matchmaking.

For example, JJak, or “other half,” is a popular show in South Korea where a group of single men and women live together and go on dates with each other. At the end, they can choose their other half or walk away empty-handed (and alone).

However, not everyone chooses to televise their blind dates, which are a normal part of Korean society. if someone is single, then they are often sent on 소개팅 (introductory meeting) by a matchmaker, family member or friend.

These blind dates aren’t always blind, and they aren’t always just for two people. Sometimes, they’re for an entire group of people so long as the numbers make pairs and no one is left out.

Once Koreans get older, then they can also do what is called 선보기, or go on a blind date with the intention to get married. With all that being said, if you are curious about what a typical blind date in Korea is like, then check out this English subbed episode of Mamma Mia for two blind dates, one arranged for an older woman looking for a husband and one arranged for a younger boy looking for a girlfriend.

However, blind dates don’t always involve as much effort and romance as you see on TV; and oftentimes, they can end abruptly as someone rushes off to the bathroom and never comes back to that small, cramped table in a cafe or hotel lobby.

Putting The Match In Matchmaking

Couples in South Korea who look alike are said to match, so couples often go to get their faces matched. Couples also talk about compatibility concerning blood types, star signs, sex and more! In fact, more traditional Korean matchmaking involves getting a couple’s names, birth dates and horoscopes read by a fortune teller.


Next up, Marriage In South Korea!

15 thoughts on “Dating In South Korea

  1. Hi , I really had no idea about most of the info you wrote !!! Thankyou had fun reading it and the other articles you wrote as well Fighting ~

  2. Yay, I’m glad you learned a lot! Now it will be easier for you to date in Korea if you ever go and need to know HOW. haha
    I will try to write Marriage in Korea soon, and thanks for always reading and letting me know what you think!^^

  3. Yes, I agree with most of the points you’ve discussed. I have some Korean friends who really get depressed when they are single. It’s like, they don’t want to even go outside of their houses since “they have no girlfriend/boyfriend”. The pressure for them to have a partner is really stressful add work and money also.

  4. I’m glad, because I know I experienced the same thing when I was in Korea. There were so many couples everywhere, and I felt pressured to date, but I also went on MORE dates, which wasn’t so bad!^^ They were good dates, so different from trying to date here in America~

  5. I like your post. I think there is more chances to meet Korean girls in Korea. You can select the best one among many girls. I live in the U.S. so there are not many Korean girls here so it is hard to find a right one.

  6. Late to the party, but I find it amusing when people are shocked when somebody older than them shows interest. I also like the rationalizations they use, which is that if a woman is open to the advances of an older man, it couldn’t possibly be that she simply finds him to be attractive. It must be mostly about money, or stability. But a lot of research has proven that the stereotypes can’t possibly be true in most cases. Yes, it has actually been proven. The truth is, it really is about love in most cases.

    I have noticed one thing, however, and that is that we are products of our experiences. I think most of us have closed minds about things like that when we are very young because we are in school and the school system is segregating us by age, for the most part. So as an 8th grader, dating a senior in high school is a huge deal, and very very rare. Similarly, if you are in high school, dating somebody in college is rare and even more rare to date somebody who already graduated college. So when you are just out of high school, large age ranges can seem monumentally huge. But, as you get into your mid to late 20s, and into your 30s, you will mature and realize how silly it was. Think about this. What if 2 men are activeely trying to get you to date them. One is a loser, but cute and 1 year older than you. The other guy is 11 years older, and is also cute, maybe even cuter, and has everything you want in a man. Kind, chivalrous, intelligent, easy to talk to, patient, slow to anger, has a decent job, is not selfish, etc… Are you going to date the loser just because he is cute and your age? Are you going to choose him over the older guy just because the older guy is not the same age? Look, I was 20 once also, and at 20, 31 seems like a big age difference. but when you are 30, 41 won’t seem so different, and when you are 40, and he’s 51, you would think it is odd if anyone even thought to point out an age difference.

    Love can and does happen between people who are very different in age, and that is OK. So you should try this. Change your story to you and your friend approaching two guys very close in age to you, but they turn to you and say that they are shocked that you would show interest in them because you are a different race than they are. Yes, it really is like that, especially if you come from different countries. The truth is, a 20 year old girl would have MORE in common with a 31 year old man from her country and a guy who is just one year older, but from another country. But we are open minded enough to understand that this can actually provide for a more fulfilling relationship if you see the differences as something that can add positive things to the relationship. The same goes for age differences. I will agree that a huge age difference like 20 or 30 years is excessive, but 10 years +/- a few years is nothing.

    I was married to a woman 12 years younger than me, and we had a relationship that people young and old were jealous of, until her mother tricked us and played us against each other, and broke up our marriage. She pursued me. I was the one with a problem with the age difference. She had no problem with it, and people would be shocked to learn we were 12 years different because they would say they couldn’t see the age difference.

    If you are going to be serious about looking for love, stop restricting on age. It’s one of the most ridiculous things to have a problem with. Instead learn what is most important to you. Do the 5 love languages quiz. In each question, tell yourself that the one you pick you get for life, and the one you don’t get, you will never get again. It helps you learn which is the most important to you. Then use what you learn to refine what you are looking for in a man. If you are very physically affectionate, look for a man who is also physically affectionate. That is one of the 5. You don’t have to be identical, but if you aren’t similarly matched, the relationship will turn cold after the honeymoon years. Sometimes sooner.

    When I was in BUD/S, I was 28. A friend in my class was 21, and had a 20 year old girlfriend. She was my dream woman. Very very very physically affectionate, as am I. However, she did not want to date anyone 8 years older. Too old. Instead she chose my friend and for 3 months they dated. She was always hanging on him with goo-goo eyes. I was jealous. But then one day I noticed he was alone and I hadn’t seen her with him for 2 weeks. So I questioned him. He said he had t kick her to the curb. I was shocked? How could anyone dump this dream woman? He said she was always touching. I said, “And?” He said, “No, you don’t understand. She was always hanging on me like a wet noodle, so I had to kick her to the curb.” I said, “You’re kidding, right?” The point is, I was a match for her, he was not. So who knows where she got off to. Likely once again choosing the wrong guy for silly reasons. Had she been able to look past her age prejudice, we might be married today, and have a few kids. I can assure you that after spending 3 months around her, I know for a fact that she was exactly what I was always looking for, and her complaints about him were basically that he wasn’t like me, though she didn’t know that. She never got to know me, but if she had, she would have realized the guy she was looking for was me.

  7. I’m all about balance. I have been open to dating since college, and at 20 I liked men who were anywhere from 18 to 35. And, I have to disagree about having things in common with someone just because you come from the same country. Here’s more on why…

    And, just to REALLY kick things off, your story about race is also ironic, especially since I am black and my ex-boyfriend is Korean. I had more in common with him than anyone I have ever met in my entire life.

    Also, as you may have picked up by now, I might be shocked by those age differences but that doesn’t mean I am against them. I think only two people can know their relationship so it’s not up to me or anyone else to determine right from wrong. Only they can. So, when women ask me about Korean men and if they date older women, I tell them yes they do if you’re the woman they like and you do something about it. I give them the same advice you gave me. haha Don’t let age restrict you or stop you, especially if we’re just talking around ten or even fifteen years.

    Now, it’s usually shocking for me due to generational differences. I’m still partying, etc. He’s not. He wants to settle down and have kids. I don’t. Haven’t even started thinking about kids yet. Of course, men mature slowly! haha So maybe he’s 40 but still acting like he’s 12. Everyone is different, and I totally believe you when you say it’s about love. Age, race, gender… whatever. Just go for love and don’t let (too) many things get in the way or stop you.

    I don’t know, it seems like women young and old alike don’t know what they want from men, likely because they don’t take the time to get to know themselves first. Society, family, and friends, and even ourselves are so busy judging us and telling us who we should be. Yes, women can be weak-minded, small-minded, and insecure. Your story is so familiar. I have too many friends who date guys for truly dumb reasons…

    Better luck to us all! And thanks for stopping by to share your thoughts and stories.🙂

  8. “And, I have to disagree about having things in common with someone just because you come from the same country.”

    We agree. My point wasn’t that you individually would have more in common with somebody from your country, the point was that people of one country will typically have more in common, than they do with others. As far as culture, this is even more true, but of course there are always exceptions. You can overcome that by spending time there, or researching and immersing yourself in the other culture, but for most people, that is not their reality. For the vast majority of people, they have more in common with people from their area

    but that’s the point. Not everyone is the same. You point out good examples of how a person might have more in common with somebody from another country. But somebody who has never dated a person from another country might be shocked to learn you are in love with a man from another country.

    I myself am way too old for her but I am absolutely in love with Chorong. I’ve watched so much of the Apink News, Apink Diaries, Showtime, Birth of a Family, etc… and she is seriously the single most perfect woman for me. But she is too young. I was born too early. But, if I were a famous actor, and had something to offer a woman like that, i certainly would try to win her heart. Her personality combined with a pretty face, and nice body make her irresistible.

    But what if I were closer in age, and still who I am. Would it be wrong for me and her to be together? I assure that most of her fans would say yes. Why? Because they expect her to live the life they which they could have, which means they think she should marry some famous actor, or some other singer, or somebody very wealthy. That story happens all over the place. People think they have a right deciding for you.

  9. Your experiences as always are so useful. There is a certain someone who I have had my eye on for awhile now. It sounds silly to say but I know in my heart it would work out well for us if I had the chance. I’ve only ever felt this way about the person who became my husband.

    However he is Korean and I’m American and we’re 9 years apart – amongst many other differences. It’s hard to remember sometimes that in the end we’re all just human – and love is about the connection two humans make. I’m willing to bridge all of those gaps, but sometimes I get so discouraged so both of these posts were so encouraging for me.

  10. How did you decide what way too old was? How did you decide you had nothing to offer? It’s been years since this reply but I do wonder.

  11. These days there are so many older woman-younger man couples– even with a 9 year age difference.

    I think if you are discouraged you need to find courage and motivation and inspiration. For me, that comes from God and my family and my friends. I also do Tarot, but only when my heart is so caught up I can’t see anything or anyone clearly.

    Love is nothing without trust and commitment. Sometimes, despite our doubts, we have to be willing to trust and commit first– blindly, and let love (and life) happen. For better or for worse– but the worst is to go your own way having never tried at all.

    So, whether it’s a slow start with a phone call or text message or an email, just start– today.🙂

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