From the Globe to Love in South Korea
Updated: May 12
When I was in middle school, I was invited by a friend to go visit her family in South Korea. It was the summer time and the air was warm, people were going on vacation and love abounded. My friend and I traveled around Seoul together, eating ramen at the Han river, hiking up the arduous trail to the North Seoul Tower and having a splash at the water parks of Lotte World.
We may have been young but we were as in love as any two 14 year old kids could be and shared a first kiss to the romantic songs of a Korean busker.
It was a warm June night and we had just finished seeing the hit Korean movie, 'Assassination'. Like many Korean kids that grew up in the big city, we walked towards the subway along an incredibly dark portion of Seoul. I saw a young high school girl walking by herself on the other side of the street and was overcome with a sense of awe that I couldn't quite place.
It wasn't until years later upon reflection that I realized why I was so amazed by the scene. Since birth every young American woman is taught to never walk by themselves in dark city streets because of the high rape and sexual assault rate in America.
And yet in Korea, people felt safe to wander the city streets at night. To me and probably any American, this is an incredible near fictional state of affairs.
And when you look at the statistics it's no wonder. Korea's rape and SA rate is 1/3 to 1/5 of the U.S. It's violent crime and theft rate 1/1000 that of the U.S. Last year, Korea's police force solved 100% of all murders in the country while America hovered at around 40%.
60% of American women will be raped in their lifetime and 70% will experience sexual assault. Every year one out of every 6 American women are raped.
60% of American women will be raped in their lifetime and 70% will experience sexual assault
Even in the wealthiest suburbs of America, the murder solve rate remains shockingly low at 50%. With the propensity for violent crime in the West, it is no wonder I felt such a culture shock. I was genuinely taken aback that a woman could feel safe in a country after years of growing up in the West.
In recent years, there has been a growing trend of Western women traveling to South Korea in search of love.
While there are many reasons why someone might choose to pursue a romantic relationship abroad, some experts suggest that this phenomenon may be linked to a number of factors, including the increasing globalization of dating, the allure of Korean culture, and the prevalence of Korean pop culture around the world.
And sure, Asian men are definitely not too hard on the eyes and the entire world is addicted to K dramas.
But what women from abroad may be tired of is being treated like a sex object in their home country. As Professor Kelly Jeong, an expert in Korean culture and history, notes in an interview with The Korea Times, "Korean culture is known for its emphasis on family, loyalty, and respect, which can be very attractive to Western women."
It is those 'traditional values' combined with its trendy success on social media that make Korea a very attractive prospect for women of all cultures.
As one American woman who found love in South Korea told The Korea Times, "I was a fan of K-Pop and Korean dramas, so I was excited to come to South Korea and experience the culture firsthand." K-dramas such as 'Crash Landing on You' and the 'Extraordinary Attorney Woo' have become international hits in country's as far flung as Paraguay and Saudi Arabia.
In addition to its cultural offerings, South Korea is also known for its high-tech industry and booming economy, which may be another draw for Western women seeking romantic partners abroad. According to a recent article in The Korea Herald, the country's fast-growing economy has created a "new wave" of young professionals, many of whom are eager to connect with foreign women.
Moreover, the country's booming economy and high-tech industries may also be a draw for Western women seeking romantic partners. As one British woman who married a South Korean man told The Korea Times, "my husband works in tech and the industry is growing so quickly here. There are so many opportunities for people with his skill set."
The structure of Korea's economy also contributes to this rising tide of women visiting the country. With over 70% of the country possessing a college degree and having one of the highest IQ's in the world, international applicants are typically unable to compete for the lucrative tech and office jobs. Underserved sectors typically include some varieties of teaching, which is a profession generally dominated by women.
For these reasons and more, women noncitizens outnumber men by a large margin in the country. Since the writing of this article in 2023, the average tourist to South Korea is more than 4x more likely to be a woman than a man excluding those from South East Asia.
Although the safe streets, great infrastructure and high standard of living draw people from around to the world to South Korea, there is a deeper draw that underlies the trend.
For many Western women, the experience of dating in South Korea can also be exciting and novel. As one American woman who was engaged to a South Korean man told The Korea Herald, "I found dating in Korea to be a lot of fun. There were so many new things to try and explore, like the food, the nightlife, and the language."
Of course, there are also challenges that can come with pursuing a romantic relationship abroad, including language and cultural barriers. However, for many Western women, the benefits of finding love in South Korea far outweigh any potential challenges.
As one Australian woman who married a South Korean man told The Korea Times, "I have found a new home in Korea and a wonderful partner who shares my values and interests. I feel very lucky to have found love here."
With its unique cultural landscape, exciting pop culture offerings, and thriving economy, it's easy to see why the country has become a popular destination for those seeking love abroad.
Jeong, Kelly. "Dating in Korea: A Cultural Perspective." The Korea Times, 6 Mar. 2019, www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/culture/2019/03/684_265541.html.
"Finding love in Korea: What works and what doesn't." The Korea Herald, 14 Feb. 2019, www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20190213000761.
"Western women find love in Korea." The Korea Times, 28 May 2014, www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2014/05/116_158710.html.