A while back, I wrote a post about the sense of community in Korea, sharing food, and couple outfits. I thought I would add a bit on the subject of being alone in Korea is kind of, you know, lonely and what better day to do it on than Valentine’s Day.
Since I’m back in America, I can’t really comment how South Korea is handling Valentine’s Day but even in America, being single on Valentine’s Day is sort of annoying. Most of my friends have significant others, which is fabulous and I wish we deemed it culturally acceptable to wear couple outfits because than New York would be a whole lot cuter! However, being the single one among friends with others reminds me a lot of my time in Korea. Also, I figure that being single on Valentine’s Day in South Korea is ten times worse.
There is a pressure in South Korea to find someone and to find someone fast. I don’t know if I can explain it correctly. There is a certain pressure by society- even when you consider the food culture- to find a significant other. And I don’t even think that this aspect of culture is done consciously.
While walking in a park near Mapo Bridge, I once counted all of the couples I saw in the next five minutes. Before beginning, I didn’t think my experiment would hold such astounding results. Mind you, I was walking (not strolling) so I made pretty good time in the next five minutes. After I counted over 100 couples, I stopped counting and the five minutes weren’t even up yet. The pressure to have someone is because everyone else has one.
When you are with another person of the opposite sex, you are automatically assumed to be a couple. Even if you are just friends, you need to know that going outside together, you are subjecting yourselves to possible stops on the street of older women commenting how cute you look together. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this. However, it just shows the sort of pressure society has on people.
As a freshman in college, the students that I talked to recalled going on tons of dates. Why? To meet someone to stay with for the next four years. Yeah, the pressure is on.
This pressure may go unnoticed by a lot of people but most exchange students have noticed it, at least the ones I knew noticed something amiss (well, they noticed something a-there). Also, Lotte, a major corporation in Korea, is not helping. Lotte created a holiday to increase Pepero (빼빼로) sales, where consumers must give 빼빼로to the ones they are crushing on (it happens on November 11). Who needs another holiday like Valentine’s Day, if you are single?
In other news, which could tie into the pressure to get someone is the amount of PDA (Public Display of Affection) one sees on campus. I wasn’t expecting it. In America, PDA on campus is something I don’t see very often which could be because a variety of variables including weather, location, and co-ed dorms. On campus in South Korea, there were spots around campus that could be retitled as Make-Out Spots (gif below: Discovery of Romance kiss in park scene). I only say this because I saw so much PDA in these certain spots on different times with different people, during my trip there. When I mentioned seeing PDA to some of my friends, they were shocked in hearing that people do such a thing. The only reason they told me was that South Korea is becoming more Westernized.
In Korea, the pressure to be with someone hurts after a while. It is like having Valentine’s Day everyday. And with the holiday of Black Day, single people are not really celebrated in South Korea. And I think that’s sad.