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Traditional Korean Marriage Advice

From Our MailBag:

Dear Dr. Kim,

Thank you for sharing the article on choosing a life partner. I am not yet married, but want to get married in the near future. Your article really helped me clarify what I should be focusing on.

I'm just curious, can you tell me about the traditional Korean view of marriage and how Korean people usually pick a spouse?

Thank you very much,

Kathy Mcleod
Toronto, Ontario


Well, Kathy, I'm always happy to share what I know of the Korean culture.

Up until about 25-30 years ago, most people in Korea had arranged marriages.

These days, most people in Korea go about choosing a life partner in much the same way that the western world does. In fact, I would say that Korea has become more of a romantic wonderland than any other country that I know of.

It was interesting and sad for me to learn that today's generation of Koreans have a divorce rate that equals or surpasses that of most industrialized countries.

Traditional Korean culture views marriage as a union between two entire families. Sure, all cultures have names for new family members like "father-in-law" and "daughter-in-law." In traditional Korean culture, these names are actual roles that carry big responsibilities. I think that this is the main reason why divorce was practically unheard of in Korea 30 years ago. To get divorced would have meant getting divorced from several roles, and the shame and guilt that would have come with so many simultaneous separations was the strongest of incentives to hang in there when times were tough.

My father is still very much a traditional Korean man with traditional Korean values. Before I got married, he told me that it was extremely important to receive the full blessing of my wife's parents.

He explained that no matter how independent today's generation "pretends" to be, the relationship between parents and their children can never be permanently fractured. There can be gaps of time during which they may not speak to each other, but for the long term, the bond between a parent and child is close to being unbreakable.

So in my father's book, receiving the full blessing of one's future in-laws is essential to having a good marriage, since both partners will ultimately stand a good chance of wanting to spend quality time with their own parents in the years ahead.

I think that some people would suggest that my father is still living in the 60s in Korea. But you asked about the traditional Korean view of marriage, so I think that my father's mindset is an accurate and relevant viewpoint.

Hope you find this traditional Korean marriage advice to be interesting and helpful.


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