Korean dating culture – How to find your Mr or Miss Right in South Korea?

After eight blog posts on the Hansik (Korean Food) Series, let’s take a break and change to another topic. After writing the blog post on Korean wedding trends, I have received requests for writing more on the marriage-related topics.  In this blog post, let’s talk about how Koreans find their Mr or Miss Right.  Some of the methods are quite interesting and unique to the Korean culture.

Korean culture has a strong tradition of matchmaking – in the traditional Korean society, due to the Confucian culture, males and females were not allowed to mingle freely with each other, so marriages were arranged by matchmakers appointed by the parents. Nowadays, for a Korean in South Korea, one’s own friends, parents, relatives, family friends, individual professional matchmakers and professional matchmaking agencies can be sources to help find Mr or Miss Right. Let’s talk about the various methods used by the Koreans.

Meeting (미팅)

If your Korean friend tells you that he/she is going to a “미팅” (same pronunciation as the English word “meeting”), it doesn’t mean that he/she is going to a meeting to discuss work or study-related issues.  In South Korea, “meeting” refers to group dating of singles and is a favourite dating method of the younger generations.  A young man and a young woman invite their respective 3 or 4 single friends to a group meeting at an agreed location, usually cafe or bar.  Meetings are not at all a serious type of dating – the group may spend the evening playing games, drinking and chatting or going to the karaoke room for singing.  If one finds someone he/she likes, they will exchange the contact details and start dating.

In a meeting, the most attractive man who is able to gain the attention of most women is called “킹카” (pronunced as “King-Ka”) which literally means the”King card”.  Then you should be able to guess what the most attractive woman in the group is called – yes, it’s “퀸카” (pronounced as “Kwin-Ka”) which literally means the “Queen card”.

Sogaeting (소개팅)

“Sogaeting” is a combination of the Korean word “소개” (“so-gae” which literally means “introduction”) and the word “팅” which is derived from the last syllable of the English word “meeting”.  This is a one-on-one blind date arranged by mutual friends.  For sogaeting, a man and a woman who know each other and perform the role of matchmaker each bring another friend to a coffee shop. The matchmakers introduce their friends to each other and the four people make polite small talk first. Then the matchmakers leave and let their friends continue to chat, hoping that they are the right match. If the friends are happy with each other, they may proceed to a restaurant or a cinema to start dating.

Bungaeting (번개팅)

As South Korea is a highly wired country, Koreans also use the internet to find Mr or Miss Right.  In South Korea, there is bungaeting (번개팅) which is a combination of the Korean word “번개” (“bun-gae” which literally means “lightning”) and the word “팅” which is derived from the last syllable of the English word “meeting”.  It actually refers to internet speed dating which is a spontaneous date arranged by two persons via the internet or phone application.

Social Dating Service Applications

With widespread usage of smartphones in South Korea, social dating service applications (“SDS app”) have been developed since late 2009 to help arrange blind dates for the people.  The SDS app helps you find the best match after you have input information about the type of person you would like to meet.

For example, I-um started in 2010 targeting at 20’s and 30’s singles.  It charges membership fee of 80,000 won and claims to have a total of one million registered members.  All of its members get proposed matches digitally on a daily basis and once the member is fine with the match, they will get to meet in person.

Another SDS company, INU Co. Ltd.,  released an app called “Honey Bridge” which enables a user to talk on the phone with a match to find out more about the match. Its matching algorithm provides a real-time phone conversation service which can suggest conversation topics.  Once the conversation is finished, with mutual agreement from the parties, the profile pictures and phone numbers are exchanged between the parties.

Booking (부킹)

“Booking” (부킹) is a method more suitable for adults since it takes place in a traditional Korean night-club.  However, traditional Korean night-clubs are different from the Western ones – there are rows of tables for patrons to sit down and chat and a relatively small dance floor since patrons in fact do not go there to dance. Usually, 4 or 5 men sit down at a table and are served expensive wine and fruit.  They are assigned a waiter who, in return for a tip from the men, go around the other tables to find a group of women whom they bring over to the men’s table.  Usually, the larger the tip, the prettier the women he will bring.  If a man and a woman are happy with each other, they will exchange contact details and start dating.

For the purpose of booking, waiters may maintain lists of attractive women’s phone numbers and will call them up and offer free, or very cheap, tables and drinks for them and their friends. Men may spend 150,000 won each in table fees and tips for booking at the night-clubs.

Seon (선)

Seon (선) is a marriage-oriented date arranged by a matchmaker and is usually initiated by the parents.  You may have seen in the Korean TV dramas that the parents ask a professional matchmaker or a family friend who has a strong network of social contacts to help recommend a suitable partner for their son or daughter who is in his/her thirties but is still unmarried and does not have a boyfriend or girlfirend.  As this method is more marriage-oriented, the parents prefer someone who at least matches their own family background in terms of economic and social status.  A meeting between the couple in which they will try to get to know each other will be arranged. If they are happy with each other, they will start dating.

As there is usually pressure from the parents to get married as soon as possible, the couple may get married as soon as one or two months after the first meeting. As the potential spouses are screened by the parents before the first meeting, it is less likely that there is family opposition to the marriage.  If the couple proceed to marriage, the matchmaker will receive a fee.

Professional Matchmaking Agencies

Nowadays, there are many professional matchmaking agencies which maintain a large network of members in South Korea.  For example, Duo, which claims to have more than 29,000 members , charges membership fees of 1 million to 4 million won, depending on the service the members require.

These professional matchmaking agencies use more systematic method of analysis of their members. For example, Duo asks each new member 150 questions about their character, family, education, income, debt, height, weight, smoking and drinking habit, occupation, hobbies and family background (including parents’ occupations and education) with the required documentary proof and the exact characteristics of the person they are seeking before matching the member up with prospective partners by computer. Members are given between 7 to 10 “suitable” introductions from the Duo database.

Some agencies may also arrange matchmaking parties for singles.  For example, Duo has arranged a matchmaking party at a hotel in which participants were divided into groups and men moved from table to table so that everyone had a chance to chat with everyone else.  At the end of the 5-hour session, each participant submitted a “love-match card” where he/she wrote down the number of the person he/she liked so that the couples were matched.

In South Korea, there are indeed many different sources from which you can find your Mr or Miss Right.  So, if you would like to get a Korean boyfriend or girlfriend, perhaps you may try the above sources.  Good luck in finding your Mr or Miss Right! 🙂

Reminder: The next post will be published on 5 May 2015.  Watch this space!

 

References:

Types of dating in Korea & dating slang“, Teaching Travel, 2015-04-10

Tae Hong, “Curious about marriage agenices?“, The Korea Times, 2014-07-25

Social dating service applications: Smash hit in Korea“, The Korea Bizwire, 2013-12-15

康熙奉編,黃約雯譯,《阿拉搜!韓國》,台北市: 商周出版,2013年版, 68-72, 97-101

Daniel Tudor, Korea: The impossible country, Tokyo; Rutland, Vermont; Singapore: Tuttle Publishing, 2012, pp. 192-201

Choe Sang-hun, “Korean matchmaking tradition goes high-tech“, The New York Times, 2007-06-05

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