Brainy but bachelorless, career women turn desperateLee Gyeong-su, 31, works for an Internet company, but his real work, it seems, is blind dates. If he’s lucky, he has four of them a week; if he’s unlucky, he has one. Sometimes, he meets two women a day, one at lunch and the other at dinner. The age of the women he meets ranges from 25 to 31. Some work as teachers, others are office workers, flight attendants and even doctors.
“It’s really hard to choose one because there are so many good women out there,” Mr. Lee said. “I don’t even care if a woman I kind of like doesn’t hit it off with me, [because there are plenty more to choose from].”
In contrast, Choi Soo-jin, who works for the same company as Mr. Lee, is not nearly so popular. Ms. Choi, 30, only rarely goes on dates on the weekend, and never on weekdays. The last blind date she went on was months ago. Even when someone does set her up, she says, the guy is usually too old.
“My girlfriends and I always wonder why there are so many good women and where all the good men disappeared to,” she said.
That led Ms. Choi and her friends to come up with the “level theory.” “If we rate men and women from A to F, A-level men are attracted to B-level women, and B-level men go out with C-level women. In the end, only A-level women and F-level men are left,” Ms. Choi said.
In the marriage market, the “Gold Mister” ― a single man in his early to mid-30s with a job ― is a rare specimen. Women in their 30s want men to be around their age, and women in their 20s want men who are financially stable, thus also in their 30s. In comparison, a “Gold Miss,” a highly educated woman with a high income, is not nearly so sought after.
“This follows the trend in the marriage market,” said Lee Ok-ja, who has been a matchmaker for 24 years in Apgujeong-dong, southern Seoul, an area popular with the rich. Five or six years ago, the situation was completely different ― single men outnumbered single women in the market, Ms. Lee said. At that time, women in their 20s with a high education, stable job or good family background didn’t think about marriage and focused on their careers. Those women are now latecomers to the husband market.
But these days, men registered with a matchmaking company are outnumbered by women, five to one. Both Duo and Sunoo, two matchmaking companies, say single women greatly outnumber single men. On average, a male member will date two or three female members.
“It’s a market mechanism,” said Cho Jeong-yeon, a manager at Sunoo. “Women in their 30s belatedly hope to marry while women in their 20s are also jumping into the marriage market, because it’s hard to find a job. Women are oversupplied, and the demand is limited,” she said.
Oh Jeong-sook, the president of Myeongga, a matchmaking company, said that there are a great many single professional women in their 30s, the “Gold Misses.” “Single women, who graduated from prestigious universities and received their Ph.Ds abroad, are really hard to find a man for. They have high standards even though men are reluctant to meet them, saying that they’re too smart,” said Ms. Oh.
A “Gold Miss” who works for the government is even more unlikely to meet many available men on the job ― male public servants are relatively popular among marriage-seekers because their jobs are considered stable. “Less than half of the female colleagues my age are married,” said a 32-year-old woman who works for a ministry. “It seems that having a good education is an obstacle toward seeing a man.”
But there is no shortage of men, according to the National Statistical Office. The number of Korean men aged 30 to 34 is about 2.1 million, 1.2 percent greater than the number of women in the same age group, and 13.5 percent more than that of women aged 25 to 29. The imbalance in the marriage market is almost entirely due to the difference in standards rather than to simple numbers.
An analysis of 1,020 members of Duo also supports the idea. About 80 percent of men 32 years old or older said they wanted to meet women four to six years younger, while 83 percent of women 29 years old and older wanted to meet a man one to three years older. Also, 57 percent of all women members said that they are likely to meet a man who is the same age as her or younger, but only 8 percent of men said they were willing to meet a woman who is of the same age or older.
The factors that singles said they would be willing to compromise on also differed depending on gender. Men said they would be willing to overlook family background, education, job, appearance and age (in that order), while women said they would overlook appearance most, followed by family background, education, age and job.
“The things that men and women look for in their partners are different,” said Lee Kwon-hee, an staffer at Duo. “That’s why ‘Gold Misses’ say there are no men for them.”
“About 10 to 20 percent of women in their 30s could marry if they lowered their standard for potential husbands,” said Cho Jeong-yeon, a manager at Duo. “There are some cases in which professional women are married to men whose annual income is much lower than theirs.”
That’s led to some women broadening their field of potential mates. One example was a 32-year-old interpreter who last year married an American younger than her. “It’s not easy to meet a Korean man around my age, so I thought it’s better to marry a foreigner than to marry a very conservative Korean,” she said.
“It’s true that the more educated a woman is and the more money she makes , the less likely she is to meet a man,” said Kim Hye-rim, a researcher at the Korea Marriage Culture Institute. “Women should shake off the idea of meeting a man who is better off than themselves, if they want to have any more chances of meeting someone.”
by Hong Joo-yun