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Dating – “Gangnam Style”

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Republished from Josephine Teo’s (Senior Minister of State at the Prime Minister’s Office) Facebook.

Minhye Kim is a bright and intelligent PhD candidate at National University of Singapore Department of Sociology. She’s also newly married.

Her prospects of finding her own “#Oppa” (#Korean girls use this as an affectionate term for their partners) were however not always clear. Having graduated from the prestigious Seoul National University, Minhye learnt that some men were still not ready to accept a woman with such strong credentials.
Our team met Minhye after a day of useful discussions with policy and research leaders in #Korea. A recurring theme was the impact of high youth unemployment.
With fewer secure jobs available, young people have found it harder to get stable income. They take longer to establish themselves and look for a life partner. As a result, marriage plans have been postponed. Korean men now marry at around 32 while women do so just before turning 30. Ten years back, men married around 31 and women did so around 28.
But, hang on… isn’t it also true that #Singaporeans are marrying later? Indeed, but the change has been less pronounced than in Korea. Moreover, our reason has less to do with youth unemployment and more to do with the interesting opportunities that have opened up for the young and adventurous.
Compared to their Korean sisters, #Singaporean women also face fewer obstacles in getting exciting and rewarding career assignments. Many gamely take up the challenges and do well. But, by the time they’re ready to look for a partner, the pool of socially compatible candidates has also become smaller.
This is compounded by another problem – our shyness to get help for dating.
This is quite unlike for Koreans, who are generally less shy about dating and more willing to approach commercial agencies (there are over 1,000 agencies in Korea, mostly concentrated in Seoul Korea) to set them up. Single Koreans may be discreet in not openly advertising the fact, but if asked, they won’t deny it either.
Parents and friends are often the ones to sign the singles up with an agency. One well-established outfit we visited called Duo even has a trained pool of professional “couple managers” and “date coaches” to help those who can’t seem to find the right match after repeated attempts. With such help and encouragement, they typically go on two blind dates a week! (Wow, very busy!)
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Met with Mrs Susan S.K Park, CEO of matchmaking agency Duo. She is literally the “Chief Cupid of Seoul” as her company has helped thousands of couples find love.

Such personalised services don’t come cheap though. Minhye herself checked out some agencies before deciding it was far more economical to use an online platform. Fortunately, by being proactive, she found a partner who was not only comfortable with her accomplishments but also willing to engage in a long-distance relationship. Her story reminds me of a previous comment by a fellow Singaporean that singles must be proactive to “let fate work its magic” – it doesn’t quite happen by chance!
Dating “Gangnam Style” may be deliberate but still fairly cheerful and relaxed, and very often aided by family, friends or professionals.
Starting early, proactively reaching out to meet new friends, openness to getting help, and having a relaxed attitude all seem to be the essential ingredients to enjoyable and successful dating. Can this style of dating help more Singaporean singles, perhaps?
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