It seems that Korean girls are extremely popular these days, with several websites going in to great detail about how they make the best girlfriends. I know that men are easily attracted to good looking women, but physical attraction will only get you so far. I’m not going to argue with most of the claims made about Korean women, but I am going to point out a few things that you need to be aware of.
Mostly, Korean girls women will expect you to pay for things (although not always) and this is the number one complaint Korean men have about them. It’s fine to pay for the first few dates but when you have been going out for several months and you are still paying for dinner, the movies,… not so much. Admittedly this is not limited only to Korean girls, but I have heard enough to make me think that it’s prevalent. It is however an entrenched part of Korean culture that men are expected to take care f women and for some men this is all part of the baggage that comes from having a girlfriend.
Don’t think that you can have contact with other women and date Korean women. It just won’t happen that way. Korean women, can be, and are, very possessive and will not like you to spend time with women besides them. I enjoy being a friends with women and I would’t want to give this up if I was in a relationship. I don’t understand why other women are meant to become invisible the minute you are in a relationship. Unfortunately many Korean women are not so understanding and will look unfavourably on any other women you are seeing.
Have you noticed how many Koreans are Christian? This can mean that a lot of normal things (casual sex, one-night stands) are considered taboo. Try getting a date on Sunday and you will see what I mean. I think that this is the single biggest barrier to dating Korean women (besides obvious cultural and language differences). But you might be ok with it, or you might be religious yourself.
I know a lot of foreign guys who end up getting married to Korean women. I hope they are successful but we all know the statistics on marriage.
As well as this, you have the fact that many older Koreans are often opposed to the idea of interracial relationships. And Korean men can act downright retarded when they see a foreigner with one of their women.
Lastly, a growing number of Korean women are becoming so concerned with their physical appearance that they are all but oblivious to the world around them. That will make it difficult to talk to them and get anything going. Do you want to be with someone who is preening into a mobile phone camera every five minutes?
If you want a girl who has all of the good points of Korean women but none of the drawbacks, try a Japanese girl. They are less religious, and don’t mind paying for things. I’m not sure if they are more adventurous when it comes to sex but Japan does produce a lot of porn so that’s a good start. Many Korean men say they would prefer to date a Japanese lady because they are much more focused on making the man happy. It’s just my opinion, but while the world is going crazy for Korean women, the girls from Japan should definitely not be overlooked.
The author has dated and is friends with women from Japan and Korea. These are just his personal opinions and should not be interpreted as general statements on women from either countries.
Having said that, the food is cheaper than in most other countries. Particularly Japanese and Korean. But if you want to eat imported food, I’m sure its more expensive. Travel is cheaper than many countries, but accommodation can be expensive if you want to stay somewhere comfortable. I actually wasn’t expecting Korea to be cheap because it’s a developed country.
Some people aren’t friendly to foreigners
I mean, a lot are, but you will definitely meet people who don’t give off a friendly impression. I have heard that many Koreans are shy around foreigners so this may be the reason.
There are a lot of old people
As a rapidly-aging country, with a stalling birthrate, Korea has tons of old people. I realised this whenever I travelled on the metro. In England, the birthrate is around 2.2 per woman, compared to 0.88 in Seoul. This means that you will see many more elderly people on the subways than younger people.
It’s very materialistic
There are big department stores everywhere. I enjoyed looking at the displays and experiencing good service in the famous deperatment stores such as Lotte, Hyundai, and Shinsegae. Eventually I found that the consumerism became a bit too much. They all sell the same products. But being able to shop until 9pm was definitely a good thing.
The palaces all look very similar
I visited Changdeokgung and a few days later I visited Deokstgung. Whilst Deokstgung is much bigger, I didn’t feel it offered anything different to what I had already seen. You have to pay to enter the palaces but this only allows you to access the grounds. You don’t get to walk inside any of the rooms. There is a changing of the guards ceremony but there is no king living there, so it’s only for tourists. I didn’t visit Deoksugung, but I’m sure it’s more of the same.
People are very conscious about looks
At first, I was interested in all the pretty women everywhere. Then I noticed that they were also very absorbed, taking selfies of themselves everywhere. Some of the Korean women who are not the most beautiful are often more approachable and easy to talk to. And men are in many cases just as concerned about appearance. If you go to Seoul, you might feel pressured to look good all the time.
It’s governed by a lot of rules
Don’t think that you can go around doing as you please. Like anywhere, there are rules, and Korea has a few you should be aware of. Can you buy something in a store and then return it? I’m not sure, and I can’t imagine they would be cool with it. You have two order a certain amount of meat in barbecue restaurants.
There are no bars
You can find many restaurants and Izakaya style pubs, but Korea doesn’t seem to offer anywhere for people who just want to have a drink.
It will be totally great in-spite of all these things. Going the first time was a big shock but the second time around will be a lot more straightforward.
First, let’s get past the over-familiar, guidebook cliches written about South Korea: It’s a land of contrasts (often the first sentence of many travel guides); its one of the most rapidly developing of Asian countries (actually it was, but the economy has been slowing down in the last few years; the country doesn’t have any old buildings (kind of true, but not the full story).
First things first. Most passengers arrive at Incheon airport, the rectilinear building that was opened in 2009. The first thing you notice is how quiet it is. Korea is often referred to poetically as the land of the morning calm. It’s peaceful and quiet on the day that I arrive. From the airport it’s a one hour bus drive into the centre of town.
Seoul has been a popular tourist destination for many years and traveller numbers are growing every year. Whilst it has a reputation for being closed off to foreigners, it has become a very accessible city.
I wanted to do several things on my trip. Firstly, use the language which I have been learning for the last 16 months. Secondly, I wanted to get to know as many Korean people as I possible. Finally, I wanted to know how it would feel being a foreigner in a country whose population is over 99% ethnically homogenous.
You step on to the subway and typically you are the only white person on board. I keep my head down mostly. The wifi connection means that people can use their phones underground, but nobody bothers sending messages or makes calls, instead they use the countries’ message app Kakaotalk. Its free to send messages and emojis. I also notice how large the elderly population is. With one of the lowest birthrates in the world, South Korea has a huge army of seniors. Sometimes they look at me strangely and at other times they seem to glare, but it’s not always easy to tell. They can be very helpful as well. I go to Busan, and when my ticket won’t open the gate, an ajeosshi (old man) pushes me though the turnstiles at the same time as himself. Interesting fact – they have underground malls at most of the big metro stations. Some of them are easily 500 metres long. And they sell things everywhere. From piles of stockings, winter gloves and scarves, to food stands (the waffle craze is going strong) you can’t travel anywhere without buying something. The stations are huge (some have as many as fourteen gates) and all are very clean. They also have toilets just inside the gates, its very conveninet. The urinals are stationed directly on the floor, meaning that unfortunately it’s possible to aim and miss.
Old vs new
Does traditional culture still exist in modern Korea? Yes, you can find it if you know where to look. You can stay in a hanok (traditional Korean house) in the Bukchon area of Seoul. Girls dress up in hanoks (korean traditional dresses with voluminous and brightly cooloured skirts). The most popular Korean drama is currently Dokkaebi (and it cleverly sets itself in the past and present with a time travelling goblin played by Gong Yoo. Coffee has become extremely popular with several US imports (Starbucks, Dunkin’ Doughnuts, as well as Korean companies such as TOM N TOMS and Yoger Presso). I go to several but disappointingly they are all much the same. It is still possible however to go to a traditional Korean teahouse (tabang), where you can sit on the floor and drink various teas from beautiful Korean ceramics.
I had already primed myself for eating Korean food, and I have enjoyed many bottles of soju. But I wasn’t ready for the sheer amount of it. My first snack was grilled chicken, eaten standing up in the frozen streets near Jongno Samga station. In Busan, I eat the famous odeng (compacted fish cake on a stick) with a cup of fish broth. Everyhwhere in central Seoul you will see pojang machas, the tents that are run by seasoned men and women. I eat a plate of the sweetly spicy snack known as tteokbokki and I am instantly flooded with endorphins. Later in the university district of Hongdae I try a deep fried milyang hotdog on a stick (no bun) which costs WON 1,000, the equivalent of one dollar. If a stall has a long line, it’s usually good indicator of the quality. Korea is a fairly rule-based culture, but it seems you can do anything where selling food is concerned. I wonder why we can’t have the same thing in England, before realising that the red-tape and bureaucracy means that vendors can serve nothing more adventurous than burgers and ice-cream.
In the coastal town of Mokpo, I have some of the best food experiences of all. First, I visit a raw tuna restaurant. They serve different parts of the fish, which we roll up in thin layers of dried seaweed. I try the cheek and the liver, each part having its own different taste. We sit in a private room with curtains which are opened every few minutes by the waitress who has to crouch nearly to the floor to bring in new delicacies.
With so many places offering food and drink, it’s hard to find somewhere that only serves alcohol. Seoul has very few British style pubs. The one I went to was Cask, a wrong-headed attempt to make an upmarket pub, with table reservations and a beer sommelier. One beer here costs 8 dollars. Only a few minutes away I stumble across one of my best finds. Situated above a chicken restaurant and a karaoke room is a hof. I go alone, a daunting prospect. Luckily the barman sits down with me and shows me some drinking games. I try them out on a group of female students on one of the tables next to me and they are impressed enough to spend the next few hours drinking with me.
Whilst it’s rare for traditional Koreans to eat and drink alone, there is now a craze for solo dining and eating known as ‘honsul’ and ‘honbab’. Honsul Couple was also a recent Korean drama starring SHINee. There are even solo noraebang (karaoke) rooms for people who want to sing without the horror of others watching them. I tried one and it was a very liberating experience.
I believe that you should be able to go anywhere on your alone and meet up with someone, make friends. Sadly it doesn’t happen too much in London, where people are more concerned about themselves than other people. But I has several encounters where I met up with people in this way. When I left the girls at the hof, I walked into a pizza place and ate it at the table. Pretty soon I meet a bunch of Korean guys and we start talking. Then someone suggested going on to somewhere. That meant more food and drinking, the place being a yang gochi joint, and I got to try the latest Korean food trend, which is to rotate skewers of lamb over a charcoal barbecue.
What can I possibly say here? Except that – with or without plastic surgery – they are some of the best looking women you will find anywhere in the world. Whether young or old, fashionable or cute, they are all different but at their core they have something about them that is unmistakably Korean. When you approach them always be polite, friendly and respectful. I didn’t always get the best reaction, but it was always interesting.
With the popularity of British culture currently very high, Koreans are very interested in learning about England. I met several women who wanted to practise speaking English with me.
When a big new Korean film is released, everyone goes to watch it. A country smaller than the UK has a very healthy film industry. Recently released Crime thriller Master beat Star Wars to the number one slot at the box office. Its star is Lee Byung Hun, who recently appeared in the American film remake of the Magnificent Seven. I watch it at the luxurious cinema chain Megabox in Busan. Cartoons are also very popular, with Japanese anime Your Name currently topping the box office. In Seoul, I try a DVD room, a place where you can watch a DVD in a private screening room. I watch a Korean film Shinsegae(New World) which also happens to be the name of the country’s largest department store. It’s possibly the most violent Korean film I have watched.
K-pop has been the biggest thing in Asia for the last several years and shows few signs of slowing down. Not everyone loves it by any means and some Koreans hate it. When I was staying in Gangham, I found a Dunkin’ Doughnuts store right outside the offices of JYP Entertainment. I was surprised to see that most of the women waiting to catch a glimpse of their idols are middle-aged tourists from Japan. Right now the biggest acts in K-pop are the Korean/Taiwanese/Japanese girl group Twice and boy band 2PM. English music is also very poplar and it seems that Koreans love romantic ballads by Sting, The Bee Gees, and Ed Sheeran.
Politics and protest
Nowadays everyone must surely be aware of the political storm surrounding President Park Geun-hye. Even sub-zero temperatures couldn’t keep the protestors away from the streets of Seoul on the Saturday I visited. But away from the main pro-democracy protest calling for the President’s resignation, there was another protest defending the president against all the charges. The pro-park rally gathered outside Seoul Station, where they sang the National anthem and waved the Korean flag. There was a slightly sinister air about it. The old guard, who supported Park Chung Hee (dictator until 1979) obviously don’t want things to change.
The best of Korea
Here are some of the places I enjoyed visiting on my trip:
Bukchon Hanok village: I stayed here with Miho for three nights.
Busan, Seoul’s second city is only three hours away from Seoul by train. The food is different and the people speak with a different dialect. I found it to be very laidback and relaxed.