[Viewpoint]Marriage with a dose of realismIt reminds me of a Western fairy tale I read in my childhood; once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess in a country in the West. She was the only child of the king and, of course, the king loved her very much. When the princess grew up to be a 16-year-old maiden, the king’s worries grew as big as a mountain. He was worried because he could not find a fit bridegroom for his beautiful daughter ― the one who would become not only his son-in-law, but also the successor to his throne. So, the king announced that...
An advertisement looking for someone to be taken into a rich-man’s family as a son-in-law is the talk of the town nowadays. A businessman with a fortune of 100 billion won ($107.5 million) last Thursday posted an advertisement on the Web site of a local matchmaking firm, Sunoo, seeking a spouse for his only daughter, who is in her late 30s but is not yet married due to further studies overseas and active social activities.
The advertiser demanded that applicants should not be the first-born son of a family, who would be more responsible for the success of his own family, should have an educational background equivalent to his daughter’s and should be professional men. He also made it clear that he was looking for a son-in-law, preferably a Christian, who was willing to be taken into his family as a son, since he has only a daughter.
It is said that respondents both from home and abroad have flooded the Web site. The matchmaking service, which was embarrassed at the rush of attention, withdrew the announcement earlier than it originally planned. Still, over 270 people succeeded in submitting their applications. If the matchmaker accepted applications for two weeks as was originally announced, the competition rate might have been even higher.
There were people who criticized the advertisement online saying that “marriage should not be degraded to the level of mating in the kingdom of animals.” But I don’t agree with them. I think it is a rather fresh idea to post an advertisement on a Web site. Considering the practice of weighing the wealth and family backgrounds of would-be in-laws, and the marriages of convenience that are rampant in our society, I think it is rather honest on the part of the advertiser to openly demonstrate parental love like this.
When I asked about the applicants, Sunoo said half of them had already been eliminated from the list because they were younger than the would-be bride. Nowadays, marriage between a younger bridegroom and an older bride is not rare, but the advertiser wanted the would-be bridegroom to be older than his daughter. Among the applicants, the youngest was a 29-year-old, and the oldest was 48. Sunoo said that men with good professions, including professors, doctors, lawyers, high-ranking civil servants and salaried men at large conglomerates like Samsung and LG, applied for the position.
There were also an operator of a 24-hour convenience store, a man who wants to be a politician and a divorce’ with two children. A protestant pastor recommended his own son saying that choosing his son “seems to be divine providence.” They all gave lengthy explanations of their motives behind applying, their professional careers and personal characters through e-mail messages, according to Sunoo. Since wire news services also carried reports, there were applications arriving from the United States and even an application in Arabic. Sunoo had hard time finding a translator to translate the Arabic into Korean.
The stir created by the modern version of “a son-in-law being taken into the bride’s family” was unavoidable because the advertiser was a rich man with a fortune of over 100 billion won. Still the essence of the problem remained within the bounds of old practices in our society. The fact that there were applications in English and Arabic is a proof that the Koreans are not the only snobs that indulge in worldly possessions. It seems that the incident was certainly affected by the low-birth-rate trend in our society.
Those who are middle-aged or older now belong to the generation who were encouraged to raise only one or two children under strict family planning policies enforced in the 1960s and 1970s. As a result of this, there is a tendency among parents belonging to this generation to look for a son-in-law who will also play the role of son, and a daughter-in-law to also play the role of daughter. The row over an advertisement seeking a son-in-law to be married into the bride’s family is a case that has become distinctive due to the wealth of the bride’s father.
You may recall a popular joke circulating among middle-aged women nowadays ― the so-called “crazy woman series.” It defines three kinds of “crazy women.” They are women who mistakenly consider their sons-in-law as their own sons; who mistakenly consider their daughters-in-law as their own daughters; and who have the illusion that the husbands of their daughters-in-law are their own sons.
When we reflect on the humor, we can feel the emptiness and prostration of middle-aged housewives who have given away their children in marriage after raising only one or two. This joke is a product of the psychology of middle-aged housewives who long to have a son-in-law like a son, daughter-in-law like a daughter and a son who will remain her own even after marriage.
The fantasy to be married into a billionaire’s family as a son-in-law is a dream that a young man can dream of in whatever society he may be. In Korea, however, a realistic view on marriage, in which couples under similar conditions get married, has already taken root. According to a survey conducted by Sunoo on 4,208 couples married through its matchmaking during past six years, there is a distinctive tendency that men and women working in similar professions get married, like professionals with professionals and teachers with teachers, etc. This is a proof that wise young people in our society no longer dream of becoming a bridegroom of a princess or a Cinderella. I think this is a trend more desirable for the future of our society.
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Noh Jae-hyun