Rob is a Canadian writer that shares my passion for cultural ethnography. Rob is currently traveling the globe after spending a year teaching in SoKo, so be sure to keep up with his travels at Momentum. Some content is NSFW. They had to use their wits to uncover which of them was secretly the murderer. This show sparked my interest in Korean language learning, which in turn, made me more serious about coming to work in Korea.
Crime Scene also taught me a lot about the culture and the way that things operate over here. The player who discovers the watch gasps, realizing that she has seen the same watch adorned by one of the suspects. After a pause of the show and one quick google search and now, after 7 months of living in South Korea I can tell you that couple items are indeed quite the identifier.
In South Korea, couples are often seen adorning the exact same outfit. As it turns out, couple items are merely a scrape on the surface of the relationship culture in South Korea. On my first day of school my students asked me if I had a wife. It took several months before my co-teacher became comfortable enough to ask me about these things. Koreans love hearing about people being in relationships, and they love being in them too for the most part.
Firstly, if you are a woman in South Korea, February 14th is important for you. KakaoTalk, which is the common texting application in Korea, includes a feature that allows you to see when someone reads your messages.
All of these notions add up to one clear truth about the couple culture here — it is very superficial. Being yourself and falling for someone who you truly connect with are things that seem to be on the backburner in certain situations. The popular 'couple look' How long can such charades last? How long do people keep up an act for? And when does marriage and serious commitment come into play? My two main co-teachers are both married with children. The structure of the sentence itself was layered with a deep subtext of assumptions, especially when it comes to gender roles in relationships.
But what about looks? Your personalities have to be compatible. I had believed it was a universal truth, not a cultural belief.
How do you make that work?! In other words, how much effort you put into your image declares to that other person how much you value them. This shines a light on a lot of the behavior in Korea then, especially something like constantly texting — it can be seen as a test of effort more than a vitally important part of the relationship.
To boot, hardly anyone wears their wedding rings and South Korea, in fact, has one of the higher divorce rates in the world. Sexual imagery and stimulus is strictly prohibited. As one would expect from the conservatism of the society, sexual activity seems very private and rarely talked about amongst individuals, especially those who are not part of the younger generation.
When it comes to the younger generation, however, sex is a little less embarrassing. In fact, the day rule is a common motto followed by many girls who are dating. I will explain it but, like, you probably know what it means already. After 30 days, a girl feels that she will finally be willing to consent to sex.
As the guest lecturer in our 3rd year human sexuality class once said: It seems the trickle down effect of Christian reign, both over the Western world and South Korea, is that relationships hold a ton of value because you need to make babies. Alas, porn is banned. Porn of all kinds.
In fact, this is not uncommon. It turns out that, most of the foreigners you ask who have stayed longer than a few years are in relationships with Korean partners, or were at one point and are stuck here after a breakup. As a Western guy your attractiveness clout kind of goes up when you come to Korea.
Hell, some came hoping to get Korean girlfriends in the first place. But when my friend, who will remain nameless for his own sake, went on a date with a Korean girl a couple months ago, he had the shock of his life.
Perhaps they are too shy to initiate but once the men initiate for them, they sort of let loose and allow themselves to develop this relationship ideal that they have had for years. What do we expect when we get into a relationship? Because… everyone wants one, right?
We are not wired in a monogamous way, right? How would we explain polygamous marriage? All of those emotions we feel and all of that security we tie ourselves into with relationships comes from years of consuming media and listening to our families and growing insecure with ourselves both physically and mentally. Emotions are shaped by our culture and our environment, and these emotions are what lead us into relationships.
The innate human that rests beneath the layers of cultural indoctrination is alive within us. And maybe the older generation can sit from their perched pedestals of years of tough, hard-fought relationship experience, laughing at the trials of the young twenty-somethings buying each other gifts and dragging their boyfriends down the street by their sleeves, but everyone has their road to the relationship that consoles them on their fundamental levels.
However deep each person may be capable of falling in love, that depth will one day be achieved and it will feel insurmountable to them, and whether or not that relationship lasts, it acts as a vital moment in their life and they too will learn to grow and understand the rough edges and soft bends of love and relationships and will sit on their pedestals one day and look down upon those who are exploring it for the first time as well, not knowing which corners cut and which provide opportunity.
So no matter what surface you present to others because of what your culture dictates, the capacity for love is there, it is human, and it is not exclusive to one side of the globe.
Whether permanent or temporary or existing in the eyes of a Korean girl who gets asked on a date, or a Western guy who travels to South Korea with his fingers crossed, my conclusion is this: Love is like the ocean. When you stand on its edge it seems like it could go on forever…but we all know other shores exist.
The ocean covers three quarters of the earth, though… and you could possibly live your life sailing it without ever seeing land again.