It is a common sight to see a young man and woman sitting in a restaurant, dressed nicely and cautiously polite, in a rather awkward atmosphere. Many youths go on blind dates in hopes of meeting their future boyfriend or girlfriend. However, nowadays, ways of meeting somebody have diversified, from university courses on dating that actually require students to go on dates, to organizations that professionally plan blind dates and offer social dating services.
Courses about relationships and marriage
Compared to a decade ago, the young generation seems to have difficulties maintaining their romantic relationships. Break-ups and divorces have become common while chances of meeting someone have become slimmer, leading to the sampo generation (generation who gives up dating, marriage and children). Universities have stepped in to encourage dating by opening courses related to dating and marriage. Some of the courses became wildly popular not only within campus but outside as well. Dongguk University’s “Marriage and Family” is one representative example.
“Although students are greatly interested in dating, sex and long-term relationships, their understanding of such subjects are insufficient,” said professor Jun Mi-kyung. “This is because students do not have the chance to look into their behaviors, so this is the main objective of the course. For instance, we speculate scenarios such as what you would do if you were jealous: to tell their feelings, pretend that they are not jealous, or to restrain their feelings. We share the results together and discuss how to overcome such conflicts.”
One interesting thing that the professor points out is how the couples are formed in the class. First, the students introduce themselves, and they submit who they want to be couples with to the professor via e-mail. In the last semester, female students were particularly enthusiastic. They clearly expressed their tastes and declared whom they wanted to be with as partners.
“Of course, some partners actually developed into real couples, but after a year, the majority of then seem to have separated,” the professor said. “This is natural, as most college relationships end in break-ups rather than marriage. Maturing through relationships and break-ups are the primary objective of this course.”
“Love & Marriage” of Kyung Hee University is another famous course of professor Jang Jae-sook, the founder of the aforementioned course at Dongguk University.
Considering the frequent incidents of child abuse and dating violence, Jang emphasized that understanding people is important for building healthy relationships.
“The course does not teach students that a happy relationship should end in marriage, as today’s students consider both dating and marriage to be optional,” Jang said. “The aim of the course is to develop students’ ability to choose what kind of person is right for them, so they can make healthy relationships.”
“Love & Marriage” is renowned for its curriculum, which includes choosing partners among classmates, going on dating missions, and discussing students’ troubles concerning relationships. Jang designed the curriculum in such a way because she believed that dating in real life is as important as learning it in theory.
“People judge others, their relationships and even future relationships only with limited knowledge, even though every person and relationship is different,” Jang said. “Although it is not much, I thought the experience could help students learn the actual ‘feelings’ of dating.”
Jang explained that the reason for the increasing number of courses regarding dating and relationships is increasing is because the society has started to realize the importance of helping the young to understand one another and teach how one should fit in with others.
“Also, students nowadays do not even have time to date,” Jang said. “I think letting students experience even a small part of dating is an important extension of education.”
Professional organization for blind dates
In addition to classes related to dating and marriage, other platforms that provide opportunities to meet a potential boyfriend or girlfriend are emerging. One of the most common type is an organization that professionally plans blind dates. It usually accepts an application form which includes basic information such as gender, height, hobbies, personality, drinking capacity and so on. Some organizations match pairs based on this information and let the pair decide whether they are interested in each other, and if they should meet or not through chatting on Kakao Talk. Other organizations even have agents to counsel the applicants. It is clear that the number of various types of organizations that are focused on helping young people to find their better half is increasing.
Confidential Blind Date with Falling in love (CBF), a blind dating service that aims to set up confidential blind dates for applicants, is an example. Having “analogue love” as the motto and guaranteeing strict confidentiality, CBF has successfully carried out 14 blind date rounds and is currently in the process of conducting the 15th. Unlike usual blind dates where most people exchange photos even before they talk on messengers, the information CBF provides excludes photos and anything related to appearance. Applicants may exchange photos after they are matched, but it is mandatory to meet at least once to see if they are compatible or not. The current director of CBF, Cho Ok, explains that this prevents people from judging others solely by appearance.
“After every event, we receive messages from applicants saying that they are now a couple,” Cho said. “It is hard to manually match pairs and answer all the applicants’ questions. But it is a pleasure to know that CBF has started a new relationship, which is what keeps us going.”
Another organization, Movie-esque Blind Date, provides a similar service but with a different theme. It sets up movie blind dates for young people can enjoy a movie and meet a new person at the same time.
“We selected movie as the main theme of the service, because we believed movies make people excited,” said Park Bo-kwang, the manager of Movie-esque Blind Date. “We thought it would be easier for people to bond with one another when they have a subject to talk about in such an exciting atmosphere.”
The organization is striving to lower the price and make the experience enjoyable in itself by offering the applicants movie tickets, popcorn, beverage and squid grilled with butter. As male applicants outnumber female applicants, female applicants can apply for free.
“It is memorable when female applicants say that they recommended their partner to their close friends,” Park confessed. “Most women are reluctant to reveal that they have met someone from an online service. I think the concept of movie blind date eases this kind of worry.”
Park also added that people will continuously meet in various ways, as people already meet and break up via mobile services which was impossible to witness in the past.
Unique concepts of online matching program
While CBF and Movie-esque Blind Date are services that are run manually by staff, there are websites which offer matching programs among registered members. The concept itself is nothing new, as blind date applications and matchmaking companies are already flooding into the market. To create a differentiated service that users can trust and have confidence in, James Choi established a social dating service called Sky People.
The feature Choi emphasizes the most is the credibility of the service. In contrast with other services, Sky People requires the members to certify their schools or jobs when they register. This limitation ensures the safety of meetings between members, as they can participate in the service only after confirming their identity through a school portal e-mail or a photograph of their business card.
Choi designed the registration process after hearing his female friend’s concerns regarding social dating service. His friend said that what worries her the most when using such services was that it is impossible for the user to know what the other person did and what kind of person he is. On top of that, the fact that the existent matchmaking services were immensely expensive and had part-timers to fake the reviews was another motive for Choi to establish Sky People.
Another unique feature of Sky People is that when a person registers, he or she receives information cards of men or women everyday at 12:30 p.m. If both sides approve of each other, they exchange their cellphone numbers.
“We chose 12:30 p.m. because we thought lunchtime is a cheerfuland energetic time when both students and workers are past the busy morning hours and about to truly start their days,” Choi said. “Just like we wait for lunch, members can wait for their potential partners excitedly.”
The estimated number of people who successfully got matched as couples since the opening of the service is approximately 80,000, and 30 couples officially informed the staff of their marriage last year.
“We analyze the reasons people withdrawal from the website in depth, because in many cases it is because he or she started a new relationship, and sometimes it is due to dissatisfaction with the service,” Choi said. “However, it is very rewarding for all the staffs whenever people say ‘We are getting married through Sky People.’ Aside from the development of the company, it is good to know two strangers meet and get married through our service. We have around 70 married couples until now.”
According to Choi, many of the busy young people do not have enough opportunities to meet somebody in real life, which leads them to resort to online platforms. He thinks that the social dating service will grow quickly due to the aforementioned social situation and the widespread usage of smartphones.
“Sky People aims to offer the most reliable dating service,” Choi concluded.