The Economist has a fascinating article about the change in demographics in Asia, particularly as it relates to marriage. Eye-opening. In short, a bunch of people in Asia aren’t going to get married and never will.
The article points to one of those reasons – in Asia (and probably most places in the world), women tend to marry up. The problem is that as Asia becomes more equal in terms of education and career between the sexes, it makes it difficult for two groups to get married – highly educated women and uneducated men. The article notes: “South Korean women seem to be no longer interested in marrying peasant farmers.” It also notes how some uneducated men deal with it: foreign brides: “44% of farmers in South Jeolla province who married in 2009 took a foreign bride.”
While in Korea, we watched this fascinating TV show about some Korean guy from the country who married a Nepalese girl. The show followed them as they went back to Nepal to visit her family after many years away. I was shocked, because I have known Korea to be a xenophobic and, frankly, racist country. I couldn’t believe they would feature an interracial marriage. But my mother-in-law said that it’s becoming more common, for country men to take foreign wives, and the Economist’s stats bear this out. But still, that it’s so common to be broadcast on Korean TV surprised me. I guess it helped that she was attractive and spoke impressively fluent Korean. But Korea is changing.
I wonder about what’s going to happen to Korean society though, when there’s a large demographic that can’t get married and not by choice. I guess we’ll see.
I also learned something else interesting while in Korea. I can’t remember who told me this, so it may not be true, but it felt true. In America, we mingle groups all the time. When we have parties, say a birthday party or a housewarming, we think nothing of inviting people from all our circles. But in Korea, they don’t do this, mix circles. They keep all their spheres separate, be it family, work, school, or whatever. If they’re going to have a birthday party with different spheres, they have separate celebrations. They don’t mix. And because of that, it’s much more difficult than in America to meet new people – you generally stick to family and work. And that’s why they have all these artificial dating constructs to meet people, like sogetting. They don’t naturally meet new people so they need something forced to make it happen. Again, no idea if this is true or not, but it felt like there was at least a hint of truth to it, and seemed to explain a lot.
I left Korea thinking about how much of the society I wanted to fundamentally change, from its education, work culture, to dating, which is both naive and arrogant on my part. But there’s so much about the society that I just don’t understand or see as sustainable. It’s an interesting place.