Succumbing to the pressure – Koreans and marriage

One of my co-teachers here at my school just turned 31.  Apparently her nickname is ‘Baskin Robbins.’  She’s a smart, funny, friendly, and beautiful person.  I get along with her great.  But, she’s been unlucky with love.  For as long as I’ve known her (the whole 6 months), she’s been going on blind dates at least two or three times a week – all with the sole purpose of finding a man to marry. 

Korean women are under an extreme amount of cultural, family, and peer pressure to get married in their mid-20’s and most certainly by age 30.  (I think this pressure exists in the U.S. as well, but is less blatant and much easier to ignore).  Korean women (and often times the parents) pay a lot of money to companies specializing in  “marrying” services (similar to a dating service, but focused solely on finding a man to marry).  Naturally, (groan) women in their mid-20’s or younger pay less for these services than their “older” counterparts.  And women who want only rich prospects (i.e. doctors, lawyers, businessmen) have to pay more too. 

It’s not uncommon in Korea to meet a married couple or hear stories about married couples who barely know each other (when they got married and even after being married).  Sometimes, they barely even like each other.  But they had to get married, and this was the best shot they had.  (Let me make sure it’s known that there are plenty of couples I’ve met who are genuinely in love too).

So, back to my co-teacher.  I always thought she had more of a “Western-style” of thinking than other Koreans I know.  She would tell me how she didn’t want to “settle” for someone and she was okay being alone.  But she also was tired of dating and tired of all the questions “When are you going to get married?”  So, over winter vacation, she decided to not only take back her ex-boyfriend (who’s been constantly wanting to get back together with her), but also accept his marriage proposal.  Literally, one day she’s single, and the next day she is engaged with a wedding planned for a month later. 

Now, that’s isn’t so bad or that unusual.  The sad part is that when I talk to her about getting married, she has very little excitement about the whole thing.  The other day she said, “Once I get married, my life is over.”  WHOA!  Of course, the two other Korean women and myself who heard this immediately said that wasn’t true…but still…how sad. 

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to go to her wedding.  I’ll be in Australia at the time.  But from what I gather, it will be nearly identical to the wedding I attended a few months ago.  Which was an eye opener.  Click here for a reminder.

13 Responses to “Succumbing to the pressure – Koreans and marriage”

  1. 1 ginko February 15, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    i am american and I married a Korean guy and I agree with yoru friend. Once she gets married, her life will be over. He – whoever he is -will continue to live as a s a single swinging bach indefinately while she will be tied down with kids and their school and his family and all the other responsibilities pf managing their life. She will eventually quit her job and have no money, time, or freedom of her own. I hope all women considering marrying a korean guy will know what they are doing to their lives, so i started to tell some of my story on my own blog at please check it out. I am not saying this will happen to everyone of course, but if you are thinking of marrying korea, you should know it did happen to someone!

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  10. 10 Anonymous August 20, 2014 at 5:49 am

    My best friend married a Korean, but keep in mind he’s been living in Australia for 10+ years. I can’t say I like his personality, though that’s another story.

    The wife works full time and earns (a lot) more money than the husband. The husband does some casual & odd jobs here & there, but nothing permanent.

    When it comes to housework, he’s a demanding one, be it laundry, food, cleaning, etc, they must be done, and if there are times the wife can’t do it, it simply must be done – no matter what. If we arranged a ‘cook & eat together’ among a group of friends, he’d be the only one sitting in the living room watching TV, while the others (both boys & girls) helped out with cooking in the kitchen.

    The husband is also used to ‘ordering’ the wife around, not the loving husband way, but the way a boss told his underling to get something done. Hey get me a coffee! Why didn’t you buy a tomato sauce for this meat pie!!? etc. If his demand isn’t met, he sulks (at least he’s not being violent).

    On the brighter side, he’s not the type who restricts the wife, she can hang out with friends on her own etc. and the mother-in-law is like a saint, doesn’t judge her for working more than the husband does, doesn’t demand this & that, and is absolutely smitten the daughter-in-law.

    They’re all happy together (something I’m still having a hard time accepting). Needless to say, the wife adores her husband like crazy, that’s probably why the marriage survives.

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