How do people meet their future spouses? No matter how many times it is asked, this constitutes just one of the numerous questions that cannot be answered with utmost certainty. When the same question is asked in Korea, one can hear answers ranging from university club activities to blind dates and even matchmaking agencies.
Matchmaking agencies have been around in Korea for about 20 years.
In Korea, where many young people meet through blind dates, there is nothing strange about having a third person arrange a date for two people. In this culture, spending a few thousand dollars is one way to find the perfect spouse.
The same goes for those who are planning to walk down the aisle for their second or third time.
Members of a matchmaking agency attend a networking session. (Duo Info Corp.)
“Actually, people who are looking into remarriage use our service more than others,” said an official of Duo, one of the top-tier matchmaking agencies in Korea. “Because it is mostly difficult to find a prospective partner in a private setting, especially for remarriage. Also, customers have a clearer idea of what they want in a future spouse (because they’ve) learned from their past experiences. They don’t want to make the same mistakes again,” she added.
Divorce, once a strong social taboo in Korea, has increased rapidly in recent years with 1 in 3 couples that tie the knot getting divorced last year. With the increasing divorce rate, the number of remarrying couples has seen an increase, with 21 percent of all marriages last year being remarriages ― including one side or both sides getting married again ― according to Statistics Korea.
This national trend is reflected in the customer composition of the matchmaking agencies. Twenty percent of the customers at Gayeon, another top-tier matchmaking agency, want to remarry, while for Duo, 14.5 percent of its 28,500 members are customers seeking to remarry.
These companies have their own separate department for remarriage. “After all, two people have to fall in love, that’s universal,” the Duo manager said. “But the main difference is that the members wanting remarriage are much older and are willing to pay more to find their significant others.”
The average age for remarriage in 2013 was 46.9 for males and 42.5 for females, 10 years older than that for the first marriage, Statistics Korea cited.
Fees start at around 1.5 million won to 2 million won for a basic remarriage package that provides five meetings. The price will rise if the customer wants to add more meetings or talk with experienced consultants.
Some agencies specialize in targeted groups of customers. There are agencies that only cater to the rich and famous. The membership with these agencies is acquired only through personal connections, which requires high “specs,” such as parents with a high income level, birthrights, a good job, etc.
It is not easy to find one’s life partner. It can be more demanding if it is for the second time. All the meetings arranged by matchmaking agencies do not necessarily lead to success. But, at the very least, one can learn about oneself by meeting different people.
By Ahn Sung-mi (firstname.lastname@example.org)