What do you get when the government goes into the match-making business? South Korea, as it turns out.
Let me explain – according to a recent NY Times article, dating has become a national priority for South Korea. With recent years of rapid industrialization and a growing exodus to the city, the nation has faced radical changes; one of these being a move away from traditional match-making. But it’s all happened so fast that the young people are unsure about how to approach their new-found dating freedom.
Faced with plummeting birth-rates and an ageing population however, this is not something that the country can ignore and let be. Hence the government has started sponsoring dating parties to get people to mix and, hopefully, match. They haven’t had a resounding success rate, but they have tried to provide a mix of traditional and modern – the singles can mingle freely, but local officials have performed background checks on participants, match-maker style.
These social opportunities are a growing trend even outside of government – events are held at shopping malls, bars have been opened where waiters act as informal go-betweens, companies are lifting the ban on office romances, and there was even a highly-publicised flash mob blind date (which, for the record, was an epic fail).
The obvious predicament here lies in the abrupt, rather than gradual, shift from old to new. Up until the 1980s, youngsters still relied on family connections and match-makers to find a spouse. Boom – all of a sudden they’re living away from their parents, in the bustle of the city, and there’s no-one to introduce them to potential partners. It’s not only awkward; it’s completely new territory on both historical and generational levels. On top of this, South Korean women are more educated and picky with their choice of husband, and waiting until almost five years later to have kids – while men seem happy enough to settle as long as the woman is attractive.
It seems ridiculous that while the Australian government debates asylum seekers and broadband networks, the South Korean government is planning parties. But upon further inspection, the Koreans may actually be working on something more essential: after all without a population, things like Internet wouldn’t even be relevant!
It all makes for an interesting scenario, and would all be highly entertaining if it wasn’t for the fact that the nation is at risk. It also pointedly conveys the fact that the good of a society is so dependent on the existence and protection of marriage as an institution.