Quirks of Korean dating explained (4) Jealous of opposite-sex friends
Published : May 19, 2022 - 13:29
Updated : May 20, 2022 - 09:08

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.

Jealous of opposite-sex friends

Some Koreans are particularly sensitive to their partner‘s opposite-sex friends, believing that men and women cannot be true friends and sexual attraction is bound to be involved at some point, according to the international couples interviewed by The Korea Herald.

(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)

According to a survey conducted by marriage consulting company Gayeon of 223 single men and women between Oct. 25 and Nov. 10 last year, 33.6 percent of respondents said “friends of opposite sex” is a major cause of conflict between couples, followed by “situations where partners are out of touch (22.9 percent).”

Indicative of the sensitivity of the issue, there was a heated debate online over an imaginary scenario in which a couple and their friends of the opposite gender eat a local Korean side dish. The hypothetical question was: “If your partner or spouse helps a friend of the opposite gender who is struggling to pick apart a single perilla leaf from the plate, would you be OK with it?” 

Comedian Lee Eun-ji and Kim Hae-jun talk about an imaginary scenario in which their partner or spouse helps a friend of the opposite gender who is struggling to pick apart a single perilla leaf from the plate during MBC‘s reality show “I Live Alone.“ (MBC)

Perilla leaves are often clumped together because of their thin layers, making it hard for even the most dexterous chopstick user to take just one leaf at a time. 

Friendship with a member of the opposite gender, however, isn’t a controversial matter in Germany, like it is in Korea, said Lara, a German who is dating a Korean man. 

“It’s not easy to find Germans being jealous of their lover’s opposite-sex friends. Couples hanging out with each other’s friends of a different gender is something common in my country.”

But some foreigners said it is also a sensitive issue in other cultures.

Linnea from Sweden said, “I got annoyed when I heard my husband's (Chang-wook) female co-worker being too friendly to him. Everyone, of course, has feelings of jealousy, but I think Koreans are less likely to admit that friendship between opposite sexes is possible.”

By Choi Jae-hee (