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 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!