Europe, the last hope of single girls

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Europe, the last hope of single girls

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Kang So-yun, a graduate student at one of Seoul’s top universities, decided last month that she had to leave the country. After celebrating her 30th birthday, the economics major began to worry that at her age, meeting eligible men in Korea would be increasingly difficult. She had always wanted to see Europe, especially Paris, where her favorite television drama was filmed (“Lovers in Paris,” not to be confused with the zillion other dramas with a similar name, different location). Much to the chagrin of her parents, she took a leave of absence from school and booked a flight to London.
While her notions may sound romantic or desperate, depending on your point of view, Ms. Kang isn’t the only young woman who is taking a trip abroad in search for love.
Travel agencies and private accommodators are noting that “l’amour” is on top of the list for single Korean women, mainly in their late twenties to mid thirties.
For office workers on a tight schedule or those on a restricted budget, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore are popular destinations. Travel agencies such as Tour Express, Hana Tour and Jayu Tour have special packages for single women, appealing to customers with the concepts of romance and shopping.
But while comparatively less in number, those with more romantic notions opt for more exotic destinations such as Europe or New York, influenced by television dramas such as “Lovers in Paris” and more recently, “Lovers in Prague.”
According to Ahn Ju-eun, 31, romance in Europe is every Korean girl’s dream. “Our generation grew up watching the movie ‘Before Sunrise,’” she said. In the 1995 movie, actor Ethan Hawke and Julie Delphy fall in love and spend a night together in Vienna. Ms. Ahn recently spent a week in Italy, but didn’t manage to snag any Hollywood-material guys.
“More than half of the travelers that go to Europe through our tour packages are women and we’ve seen a recent increase in Prague tours. Also, young women are traveling more alone than in pairs,” said Kim Ji-sun, an official at Hana Tour.
According to Ms. Kang, there’s no point in traveling with a partner. “Your chances of meeting men are zero. You have to be alone to be available,” she said. “For instance, if I’m looking confused on a street, someone will come up to me and say, ‘You look lost. Are you Korean?’ and then the conversation starts from there.”
Jeong Mi-ryeong, who runs a bed-and-breakfast in Paris, said her women’s quarters were booked until the end of the year. Located in downtown Paris, Ms. Jeong’s lodging has single and shared rooms (separately) for men and women.
“Before, the balance of guests was mostly the same, but in the past few months, the women’s quarter has been full while the men’s rooms are almost empty,” she said. The women are also more stylish. “A couple of years ago, the single women that came here were mostly backpackers going through Europe, so they were very casually dressed and left early in the morning for sightseeing, but the women that come these days spend a lot of time in the morning putting on make-up or curling their hair. Sometimes they wear high heels and dresses.”
Kim Joo-yun, 28, who was one of the guests at Ms. Jeong’s house, said that it’s not vanity that led her to travel alone, but rather that knowledge that something, somehow, might happen. She said she wasn’t looking for foreign men, but Korean men on business trips or Korean men studying abroad. She has, alas, been unsuccessful so far.
That kind of “closed mind” is why those women failed, Ms. Kang said. She added that she’s currently in a long-distance relationship with a younger Malaysian man she met in Europe.
Don’t expect those women who do succeed to start registering bridal patterns. Seo Bo-mi, 27, who met her ex-boyfriend during a backpacking trip in Frankfurt, noted that while on-the-site whirlwind relationships are exciting, they can end almost as quickly as they started.
“It’s like when you’re traveling, you’re in another world, and when you return to your own world, things go back to what they were in the first place,” she said.


by Wohn Dong-hee
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