17 quirks of dating in Korea [pt. II]
In part I, we touched on the popularity of blind dates, love motels, coupledom obsession, and the over-the-top communication patterns. Here are the 7 remaining peculiarities of Korea’s dating culture:
11 - On jealousy and possessiveness. Once Koreans enter coupledom, they usually spend much less time with friends of the opposite gender. I’ve even been told hanging out 1-1 with a friend from the opposite sex—while in a romantic relationship—is a big no-no. Apparently girls sending photos of their outfits to their boos before a night out with the girls (to receive approval) isn’t all that uncommon either…
12 - Koreans (seriously) dating Western men vs. Western women. From what I’ve seen it’s way more common for Korean women to date (and marry) Western men. I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of Korean men + Western women duos but the former combination is much more prevalent. Apparently, Korean parents have an easier time accepting this dynamic. In most parent’s perspective, the ideal situation is for their son or daughter to marry another Korean. But if going the foreign route, they view Western (Caucasian) men slightly less preferable to Korean men, whereas Western women are viewed way less preferable than their Korean counterparts. When people of color or South East Asian folk are involved, it gets a lot more prejudiced...
13 - It’s all or nothing. The notion of casual dating or “taking things slow and going with the flow” isn’t something Koreans relate to. They are mostly always seeking a serious committed relationship with the potential of tying the knot. However, this line of thinking doesn’t always extend to foreigners. From my experience, Koreans reserve their casual dating for non-Koreans e.g. dating without any intentions of marrying. These situationships can vary from fun-based, no string attached arrangements to more formal and exclusive romances. Mostly always these relationships are kept entirely secret from the Korean person’s family regardless of years together, unless they decide to make it official and get married.
14 - Marriage is (mostly) always the end goal. Marriage is a topic that is discussed very early on between most Korean couples that are in their mid or late 20s (and even more so beyond that age). Because their society places such emphasis on the marriage unit, they ain’t got time to play little games like we do in the West. When the stars align and they find someone with potential, things move lightning speed fast. It’s not unusual for Koreans to get married with only a few months of meeting their boyfriend or girlfriend. One Korean guy I dated recently married a girl he was in a relationship with for a mere 5 months. My old coworker married her husband after 4 months of knowing him. This is normal in Korea.
15 - And it isn’t necessarily just about love. Since the invention of marriages, these unions served as economic and social alliances between two persons’ families. Love had nothing to do with it. It seems that the way Koreans think about marriages resembles this older model, with a modern twist—the freedom to date around and have premarital sex. Korean marriages aren’t as rigid as in the bygone ages . They don’t marry complete strangers their parents chose for them, but parents MUST approve of their suitor. Parents have the power to break people up. Koreans don’t want to disappoint their fam. I’m not saying Koreans don’t marry for love, just that their unions aren’t solely based on love.
16 - Let’s get married! After Koreans go through all the trouble of finding an appropriate soulmate, texting and calling incessantly, celebrating their coupledom every 100 days, having their parents and family approve of one another, it’s time for a big ol’ wedding celebration! You’d think that going through all of these perils, throwing a big wedding party would follow suit, right? Nope. Most Korean weddings are quite something... Weddings are usually held on Saturdays or Sundays—during the mornings and afternoons—at big commercial venues where multiple weddings are happening at once. Upon entering, guests must provide a monetary gift (at least $50). The ceremony lasts about 15 minutes and is executed with the help of venue coordinators and staff, making for a very artificial atmosphere. Afterward, people take photos then a buffet lunch follows and you’re out the door.
17 - Happily ever after? Some may get their happy tale, but others not quite. Korea has a very high rate of domestic violence, usually fueled by heavy alcohol consumption. In a recent study, 53.8% of respondents reported spousal abuse. And the divorce rate is also spiking. Most attribute these issues to the hasty manner of getting into marriages before getting to know one another fully. Unfortunately, domestic violence is viewed as a private matter and not a crime to be punished by the law. Also, divorce is very much met with prejudice and most often than not, divorced women are viewed more harshly than divorced men. At the same time, the divorce rate may bring about positive change for the women that were enduring abuse and staying together simply for the sake of social norms.
Modern dating is a tricky bitch anywhere, but I didn't expect it to be so damn nuanced in Korea! Needless to say, I’m happy to be moving on from the struggles of romancing in this country to hopefully brighter prospects.