I can’t help it, I’m falling in love
Park Hae-mi, the star of the hit sitcom “Have No Fear, Kick High,” and Hwang Min seem to be the perfect couple.
It was love at first sight for Hwang when he first saw Park performing in a play. “I had already experienced a failed marriage and wasn’t ready for another relationship,” said Park, playfully eyeing her husband. “I tried to push him away, but he was very insistent.”
In Korea divorce was once universally condemned as shameful and remarriage was regarded as an abomination. Although such views persist, Korean society is witnessing a gradual change. Some now use the phrase “new marriage” instead of “remarriage” in order to rid connubial retreads of their negative connotations.
Kim Min-ho and Lim Ji-yoeng seemed nervous and excited on the day before their wedding. It was a second wedding for both of them, but they were just as lightheaded as any couple tying the knot for the first time. “My parents asked if we really needed the ceremony. But I didn’t see any reason to be bashful,” say Kim.
The National Statistical Office reported that one in four couples (25.2 percent) who got married in 2005 included at least one partner who had been married before.
The growing number of couples embarking on a second marriage is changing social attitudes and couples taking their second voyage down the aisle are starting to openly celebrate their nuptials.
Yang Ji-yeong from Wedding Tiara, a wedding consulting firm, said, “The number of clients who are on their second marriage has doubled, compared to last year.”
Most couples who are giving eternal love a second chance request a unique wedding.
“This time around, they plan their dream wedding,” said Yang. “Couples usually invite only about a hundred guests, but the ceremony is bigger and more glamorous.”
Some couples spend more than they did on their first wedding. According to the wedding hall at the 63 Building, couples having a second wedding are more lavish and they spent an average of 55,000 won ($63) per guest last year, while couples having a first wedding only spent 47,000 won.
“Ten percent of the guests who get married at our hotel are remarrying,” said Kim Gyeong-Hee at the Westin Chosun Hotel. “We expect that figure to grow.”
This new tolerance of second marriages is a quite recent phenomenon. “Our parents were so strongly against the marriage that it took us seven years to register our union,” said Park Hae-mi. “It was the first marriage for my husband, and yet a wedding was out of the question.”
Jung Seung-hee has a radically different perspective. She went through a divorce but decided to remarry when she met her groom-to-be. “I realized how prejudiced people are when I got divorced,” she said. “That is one of the reasons I want to tell the whole world about my new marriage.”
Kim Hye-rim, a researcher at the Korean Marriage Culture Institute, supports Jung’s view. “Remarrying definitely gives a woman more status than living as a divorcee,” he said. “This applies to both men and women. It brings stability, and most importantly, it liberates them from constant judgment by society.
New Marriage, New Standards
In the world of “new marriage” different rules and standards apply. A considerable number of men and women put great weight on the financial status of their potential partner.
Kim Sang-hee, who will remarry in May, says she’s no exception. “Over the years I realized the importance of financial stability,” she said. “During my first marriage I often argued with my ex-husband regarding financial problems. However, I no longer think educational or family background have much importance. But financial stability is vital.”
According to Lee Gwon-hee, a remarriage consultant, the majority of female clients look for similar qualities in men. “For second marriages, independent entrepreneurs are highly popular,” Lee says.
This claim is backed up by a survey conducted last year by Duo, Korea’s largest marriage information agency. Among divorced female clients, 25.5 percent selected “entrepreneur” as the most desirable job for their prospective mates, while only 13.9 percent of unmarried clients chose the same category.
Raising children is another issue of crucial importance. Women with sons tend to have more difficulty finding a match compared to those with daughters.
A man who wanted to be known only as Kim married for the second time last month. “I feel we get along better because she has five girls,” he said. “If she had sons, problems regarding inheritance would have complicated the matter. Frankly, I think I would have had second thoughts about the marriage.”
“In remarriages, couples take more time getting to know each other because they are more cautious,” says a manager from Haengbok chulbal, a specialist firm that arranges second marriages. “However, once they make the decision, it takes them less time to get married.”
By Ha Hyun-ock, Hong Joo-yun JoongAng Ilbo [email@example.com]