Dating in Korea

In this article, I’ll talk about dating in 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 Korea and were wondering whether or not that world even existed.

Don’t worry. Love seems to always be in the air in Korea. Koreans even have romantic holidays– one for each month, so check out this video to see what Pepero Day in Korea is all about!

To see the full list of romantic holidays in Korea, check out THIS article. But, even without romantic holidays there are still plenty of special events for a couple to celebrate, from surprise events to 100 days to 1,000 days.

This is an event famous Korean singers Oh Jong Hyuk of former group Click B and Soyeon of T-Ara were recently caught celebrating with several friends. Speaking of celebrity couples, these days it seems like ALL of our favorite Korean celebrities are dating, from comedians to actors and actresses to idols!

In response, many people have expressed their happiness for these couples. But, they’ve also their shock and concern over the age differences between both confirmed couples, like Tony An and Hye Ri, and alleged couples, like Choiza and Sulli. But, we’ll get there!


Date or Die: Korea Takes Dating Seriously

Couple Two~

Dating in Korea is like breathing: Everyone does it, and if you don’t, then you’ll “die.” Out and about in Korea you’ll see tables and specials for two. Couples of all ages hold hands and can be spotted easily, especially if they’re wearing couple items.

But, why is dating, or yeonae, so important in Korea? 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.

So, here are some typical(?) 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, the younger generation of Koreans might not care about the answers to those questions. A close Korean dongsaeng of mine said that she wished her parents didn’t care so much about who she dated. Same here!

Level Up: Matchmaking

Matchmaking in Korea is INTENSE. Couples who look alike are said to match, so couples often go to get their faces matched. Couples also talk about compatibility concerning their blood types and star signs.

This is something many of us already know about thanks to movies like My Boyfriend is Type B and dramas like 12 Men in A Year.  More traditional Korean matchmaking involves getting a couple’s names read, as well as going to a fortune teller to see if a couple is meant to be together….

This might be why there are so many Korean shows and Korean services that are devoted to matchmaking. For example, JJak (or “other half”) is a popular show in 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.

Although not everyone chooses to televise their blind dates, if someone is single, then they are often sent on sogaeting, short for sogae meeting, by a matchmaker, family member, or friend. 

Sogaeting for two~

These are just what we call blind dates, and they can be for two people or for a group of people, so long as the numbers make pairs and no one is left out! Once Koreans get older, then they can also seonbogi, or go on a blind date with the intention to get married.

If you are curious about a “typical” Korean blind date, 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.

Typical Dates

dating in korea

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

Dutch pay in Korea isn’t very common, and that might be why girls and women complain about men who use coupons on dates as they try to save money. But, some of the best dates might be “1 night, 2 days,” short vacations that a couple takes together lasting one (special) night and two (fun) days.

Age Differences and Dating in Korea

noonaaa

Just the other day my friend was taken aback by an ahjusshi who was messaging her. He is 34, and she is 24. I’ve had similar experiences where Korean men who I think are too old approach me for a date, and I was similarly taken aback.

My ex-boyfriend– Korean, is only five years older than me. However, it seems like men in Korea are allowed 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 shocking 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

Park Jin Young (JYP CEO): 9 years

Yang Hyun Suk (YG CEO): 12 years

Seo Tai Ji: 16 years

Lee Ju No: 23 years

For a longer list of married couples with BIG age gaps between them, check out THIS article; and, its not just older men, yeonsang, and younger women, yeonha, who are tying the knot!

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

In addition, in recent years it has become something of a trend for older women, also yeonsang, to date younger men, also yeonha, but not with such big age differences. For example, Baek Ji Young is nine years older than her husband, Jung Suk Won. Kim Woo Bin’s girlfriend is actually older than him, too, but just by a year.

Dating in Korea Isn’t ALWAYS about Love

But, in Korea, why is the age difference between older men and younger women who are dating or married so big? For me, perhaps because I am Nigerian-American, this age difference is somewhat shocking, but it is also completely understandable from the perspective of Korean culture.

In Korea, age differences are often bigger between older men and younger women who are dating and married, because 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. So, these?

According to THIS article, titled “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! And, not ALL Korean men can find love…

BECAUSE they’re not rich: “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, at least compared to America where men and women tend to support each other financially, allowing men to get married sooner rather than later.

Although, in America there are also PLENTY of gold-digging young women who date and marry extremely old men just for their money, too. But, what do young women in Korea 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.


So, dating in Korea is likely to involve the romance (and drama) that many foreigners have come to know and love!

However, don’t expect every Korean boy or man to be just like a lead actor (or second lead actor) from a Korean drama, especially when it comes to dating. Next up, Marriage in Korea!

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11 responses to “Dating in 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 ~

    • 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!^^

  2. 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.

    • 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~

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

    • 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. :)

      • “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.

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