South Korea has a problem. According to The New York Times, the birth rate has plummeted to 1.15 average births per woman, the lowest birthrate of the world’s most developed countries. The country is also highly conservative and does not allow for extramarital births. As people have moved out of the country and into the cities, it is more difficult for families to act as matchmakers for their children so they can get married and start making babies..
Instead, the South Korean government is setting people up.
According to the Times, matchmakers and fortunetellers were used to pair children up until the 1980s. This was easy to do in small ancestral villages, but as cities expand, the government is trying desperately to pick up where tradition left off. Unlike in the United States and other western countries, it isn’t a social norm to just approach people at bars and strike up conversation because it’s very culturally important to know about someone’s lineage. As a way around this problem, the local governments and ministry affiliates have started setting up ways to mitigate the stress of a finding a potential mate. Corporations have also started removing bans on office romances and funding dating services for employees. Generally, people in South Korea tend to be less comfortable with online dating since traditionally, people are set up in relationships instead of finding a partner on their own.
One of the more absurd and least successful attempts at helping young South Koreans find partners was the flash-mob blind date. This spectacle took place at Yoido Plaza in Seoul and attracted about 3,000 participants. According to the Times, everyone’s phones rang at 3:24 pm to signal the start of the dating frenzy, but nobody really did much speed dating. Almost every person was struck with nervous butterflies and the event died down in just 10 minutes. Although the organizer maintains that about 100 people left the event having made plans for a first date, it obvious that a mob dating scene wouldn’t be the best forum for finding a future spouse.
Most speed dating events funded by corporations or the government, however, simply take place at a bar. To avoid awkward encounters, the bartenders act as messengers and hand out “Cupid Cards” from the admirers to the admired. It remains to be seen whether any of these efforts actually work.
[Image via The New York Times]