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Quirks of Korean dating explained (1) Love confessions, a rite of passage for all couples

May 16, 2022 - 15:44 By Choi Jae-hee

They say love is universal, but when it comes to dating culture, Korea has a different love language, according to five international couples that The Korea Herald interviewed. From love ‘confessions’ to matching outfits, here are some dating norms that set Korea apart. – Ed. 

(Clockwise from top) Lee Kyu-ho and his Canadian wife Sarah (Courtesy of Lee) / Kim Hyun-kyu and his German girlfriend Lara (Courtesy of Kim)/ Lee Chang-wook and his Swedish girlfriend Linnea (Courtesy of Lee) / Lee Ru-bin and her Lithuanian boyfriend Paulius (Courtesy of Lee) / Aybuke and her Korean boyfriend Jeong-gyu (Courtesy of Aybuke)

For Koreans, confessing their love to a crush is deemed a crucial step for a romantic relationship to begin.

Only when one party makes the confession, the so-called “some” stage ends and the two become a couple. 

Some is a Korean slang that refers to the uncertain stage between being just friends or acquaintances to lovers. It is when two persons are interested in each other and are quasi-dating, but they don’t define their relationship yet as an exclusive, romantic one.

There’s even the “love confession day” in Korea, set by online communities here as the ideal date for hesitant singles to make a move toward becoming a couple. 

It falls on Sept. 17, 100 days before Christmas. If one confesses their love on this day and is accepted, the couple can celebrate the 100th day of their relationship -- an important anniversary for lovers in Korea -- on Christmas.

Lee Kyu-ho, a 34-year-old content creator living in Seocho-gu, Seoul, who tied the knot with a Canadian woman in 2015, was one of many Korean guys for whom confessing love is the default option to start dating someone. 

“As soon as I saw my wife Sarah at a bar in Apgujeong, Seoul, in 2011, I fell in love. On our second date, I asked my wife to be my exclusive,” he said. 

Lee’s confession was a bit of a surprise to his then girlfriend Sarah from Canada, who wasn’t familiar with making a relationship official so quickly through romantic phrases. 

“In Canada or the US, men and women naturally develop romantic relationships without confession of love by going on several dates and spending a longer period of time together,” she said. The couple has been running the YouTube channel “2hearts1seoul” since 2015. 

Lara, a 26-year-old college student from Germany who has been dating a Korean guy since 2019, shared Sarah’s view. 

“German couples don’t give meaning to the first day they become lovers.”

Without saying “will you be my lover,” Germans usually go out on a date to see how their feelings grow for each other, Lara explained. When they stop seeing anyone else, that’s an indirect way of confessing their love, she added. 

Lara first met her boyfriend, Kim Hyun-kyu, 23, via a language exchange app. She was his German tutor. 

They became an official couple after Kim asked her to be his girlfriend in December 2019. Having lived together in Germany for more than a year, the international couple currently runs the YouTube channel “Hunny couple,” where they upload videos documenting their daily life and special events.

By Choi Jae-hee (