I have hesitated to write this post, as it’s quite personal and I don’t want to offend anyone as I do try to be sensitive to the cultural norms of the country that I am living in. However, I have had some interesting experiences while dating in Korea, and felt that I needed to share some of them. This post certainly doesn’t apply to all Korean men, and I did find that I had vastly different experiences when dating men who had experience living in another country besides Korea and who were completely fluent in English. I have some lovely Korean friends who have told me I’ve just had bad luck, and that could be true. I wouldn’t take back any of these dates or experiences as they have helped me grow, but I sure as hell wouldn’t repeat them. I think that some of Korean mens’ opinions and views on Western women can be a different from our cultural expectations and what we are used to, and that can lend itself to unfortunate situations.
Dating in Korea: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Recently, I had been dating a Korean guy who I quite liked. I showed his picture to one of my friends at a bar, and she proceeded to tell me that they had hooked up and he had immediately disappeared. She then showed me all of his numerous social media accounts that he uses to sleep with girls. Boys will be boys apparently (?), no matter what the K-dramas tell you (I ended it, obvi).
I have Western girlfriends who are happily dating Korean guys (and marrying them), and on the opposite end of the spectrum, girlfriends who have had similarly bad experiences. One of my girlfriends had a guy come up to her at the bar and request “Sex, please.” One of my girlfriends had to hide out in a convenience store, as a guy had followed her from the subway and she was too scared to go home. My other friend was riding the subway and had a guy lean over and touch her tooth (her tooth!) because he said she had a pretty smile.
Things I’ve Noticed
♥Korean guys are super sweet when they first start dating you. Like, really, really charming. To the point of it almost being slightly annoying for someone like me, who is not clingy and has shit to do. They text you 24/7, constantly wanting to know what you are doing, how you are feeling, ect. My Korean girlfriend told me that this was a way for them to initially express interest, and when they felt more comfortable with you they backed off. I had one guy who was texting me like this quite frequently, and I didn’t respond one day as I was busy at work. He proceeded to send me a bunch of slurry text messages later in the night after he had obviously had a few too many saying that it was all ‘one-sided love’ and how I had humiliated him.
♥On that same token, if you piss a Korean guy off, they are quick to bounce. It’s called the ‘Korean Freeze’ and it’s very real, for both men and women. It’s almost refreshing. Coming from the West, I feel like we drag the end stages of dating out like a dead horse (at least I do.) I never know when to just own up and stop communicating, and the Korean style of just complete cut-off from communication has definite benefits.
♥ Things get fast, very quickly. In addition to the texting, Korean guys start asking you ‘what this means’ after like, the second date. I had one guy keep asking me when he could call me ‘mine.’ This kind of talk freaks me out, as I practically keep in shape by running away from commitment, so I had to end that.
♥Korean guys put a lot of effort into their appearance, and will actually dress up for dates. I absolutely love this, and wish guys at home would catch on.
♥ They pay for everything. This was strange to me at first, as past the second date or so I am used to going dutch with guys. We are both working, right? When I tried this with a Korean guy I was dating he looked vaguely offended and grabbed the check back from me stating that he was ‘taking care of me.’ This all goes back to them being the ‘oppa’ and caring for their lady.
♥ And that’s the thing…they love to take care of you. Korean guys always walk on the busy side of traffic, open doors, and can be so considerate and sweet…
My problem with that, is that on the dates that I have been on, that sweetness has quickly turned to what I perceive as an ugly and possessive attitude that I just can’t wrap my brain around. My worst experience while dating a Korean guy came about eight months into my stay in Seoul. I met this guy at a bar and he seemed infinitely sweet and good-looking. He rode horses in Gangnam, he dressed well, and he had a good job. We arranged to meet for coffee later in the week, and he impressed me even more.
I left our coffee date feeling quite excited to go out with him that Friday. I met him at a soju bar in Gangnam, where he proceeded to get hammered. As soon as he started drinking, I noticed a dramatic shift in his sweet persona. He moved to my side of the table and started rubbing my leg, and saying in this whiny voice, “You should kiss me”, and then jumping quickly to “We should go back to yours or mine.”
Everyone knows that the best way to get a girl to sleep with you is to whine at them until they break down.
When I declined his charming invitation, he got even more forward and started telling me how I was the prettiest white girl he had ever seen, and why wasn’t I acting as ‘sexy as I looked?’ I had enough by that point and the subway was going to be closing soon, so I excused myself and said I would see him later. I thought I had made it out of that impending awkward moment until I heard him running up behind me. He grabbed my arm and begged me to go for one more drink with him, apologizing and pleading. Here is where I should have just called it a night, but I felt bad (that’s that thing with so many women including myself- we hate seeming rude), so I went for one more drink.
The second we got into the next bar, his personality shifted from whiny to aggressive. He ordered drinks for us and then started berating me, saying that I didn’t know how lucky I was and that there were plenty of Korean girls that would kill to date him. I told him that he should probably just date them then, and got up to leave. That’s when he grabbed my purse and put it behind him, stating that I wasn’t going anywhere.
Now, this situation was, quite frankly, starting to make me panic. When I’ve explained it to other people, they have told me it was a cultural misunderstanding. Korean couples play this “cute” game when they are fighting where the girl whimpers and complains and the guy finally gives back whatever he took and they kiss and make up.
However, I wasn’t clued in on the game and was practically seeing red. We engaged in about a 20 minute back and forth at the table, with other Koreans just looking at us in bemusement. This escalated my panic as I felt like no one would intervene if things grew more heated. He finally threw my purse at me and yelled that I ‘owed’ him and wasn’t leaving the bar until I paid him for not just this drink, but all the others that he had bought me. I told him the cost was negated by me having to endure to horror of his company. I obviously shouldn’t have said this because it seemed to send him over the edge, and he stood up and grabbed me, shaking my wrists and saying “You owe me!” I was frightened at this point and did the only thing I thought might work, which was to get teary. It seemed to placate him, so I paid him for my one drink, and practically ran out of the bar.
In the morning, he messaged me a slew of apologies, citing that he shouldn’t drink in front of ‘pretty girls’. He also sent me photo of myself, that he had taken without my knowledge (creepy factor 10), and probably sent to all his friends. I had bruises on my wrists from where he shook me which scared me enough to just block him and not send him an insulting message back.
I know that I bear some responsibility in this disaster of a date, part of which is just not completely understanding the cultural differences and how many Korean men perceive American women. I’m not quiet, I have a bit of a temper, and I don’t like to be told what to do. However, ladies, just remember to be careful and don’t feel bad for saying ‘no.’ If I had just listened to my gut instinct I would have just gone home when I got that icky feeling that most of us know so well. So what if you’re seen as rude? Who cares? At least you are safe.
I ‘m still open to dating Korean guys, but I’m definitely going to be a lot more picky (and careful!) about who I choose to go out with. I think with the language barrier and cultural differences it can be quite hard to recognize if someone is actually legitimately a bad person or if you are just misunderstanding the situation. Anyways, once again, this by no means reflects all Korean guys (just a tiny percentage that I have dated.)