[FOUNTAIN]Not-so-free love

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[FOUNTAIN]Not-so-free love

Koreans are known to encourage drinking, but we also encourage dating. The Korean society could be called the “republic of love.” The thinking on love today is that every individual is capable of love. Mass media increasingly feature types of love that break conventional ideas and taboos.
We experience similar encouragement to love in our daily lives. When someone feels tired and bored, the most common advice he or she gets is, “You might want to start dating.” Of course, romantic love does not come to everyone, so the television shows, novels and movies that give a second-hand experience of romantic fantasy are extremely popular. The entire country seems to be searching for love.
Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim, the authors of “The Normal Chaos of Love,” argue that love is the only value that enables people to discover their identities and connect with others. In a society that is uncertain and unstable, love becomes a religion.
Women’s studies expert Kim Eun-sil explains that the democratization and popularization of love were influenced by the development of individualism and neo-liberalism in Korean society in the 1990s. “In an era of self identity, people started to search for a unique self not defined by class, status, education or nationality, and began romanticizing themselves. Love acknowledges the unique individual, and it became a kind of salvation in the age of neo-liberal infinite competition,” she said.
However, not everyone is equal in love. Ms. Kim argues that the cultural script of love has been commercialized. The advent of matchmaking services and professional dating reveals that love has been taken over by industry.
In fact, the dating market is a place where potential mates are graded and traded, and at the same time, is an axis supporting the giant romance industry. The latest dating culture is closely interrelated with the spending habits of couples, who mark anniversaries and days of remembrance, plan special events and exchange gifts. Mass media, such as television dramas, encourages the trend. In a show, a millionaire rents an entire cafe to propose to his girlfriend, and the event soon becomes a new dating standard in real life.
The controversy over the gold-digging “soybean-paste girl” originates from the consumption-oriented dating culture. Guys who have grown tired of giving expensive gifts to their girlfriends began criticizing materialism. People believe in the fantasy of true love, but their religion has been industrialized and swallowed by commercialism.

by Yang Sung-hee

The writer is a culture and sports desk writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.
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