A 36-year-old female English teacher, surnamed Roh, is soon to move to the United States to get married. She met her future husband via a famous wedding consulting firm.
When registering her profile, Roh marked "all areas (globally)" in the regional option sector. She also added that she strongly wished to find a partner who had U.S. citizenship and a professional job in the States.
International matchmaking is becoming a common choice for high-profiled women of marriageable age. Now with the Visa Waiver Program, which started last month, allowing Korean nationals to visit the United States for 90 days without a visa, more people are seeking spouses from across the Pacific.
In Roh's case, the husband-to-be visited Korea for around a month to meet his own wife candidates via the agency. In many other cases, Korean women take a short-term trip to the United States to meet their possible spouses, who are usually second-generation Korean immigrants.
Sunwoo, one of the most famous wedding agencies in Korea, will be launching a program called the "International S.O.S." before the end of the year. The program is primarily aimed at helping Korean nationals residing in the United States who wish to find Korean life partners.
"Korean people show a strong preference for their own nationals when it comes to marriage," said Roh Kyoung-sun, manager in the Sunwoo PR marketing team. "Koreans who live abroad generally have a very narrow spouse pool, although many of them are highly eligible."
The agency, as part of the matchmaking program, will reorganize its webpage to accommodate its English-speaking members, especially the second generation of Korean immigrants in the United States.
Other wedding agencies are also experiencing recent changes in their international matchmaking market.
"Many people these days are making inquiries about international matchmaking," said an official of Duo, another renowned wedding agency. "The increasing interest has been especially conspicuous after the VWP started."
International marriage is still subject to negative prejudices. Some object to women aspiring to international marriage, and even regard them as low standing and prideless.
"We always hear stories of pregnant women spending sums of money and going through all sorts of adventures just to have their children born in the States," said Kim Mee-hee, a housewife living in Seoul. "I know that U.S. citizenship always comes in handy when it comes to a child's future, but such a feverish American dream just seems to have gone overboard."
However, international matchmaking is not just a reckless desire for American benefits.
"Most of the women desiring international matchmaking are fluent English speakers, usually with a high-level education and overseas experience," said Erica Oh, a coupling manager in the Sunwoo global team. "In many cases, such women are what they call 'gold misses' who choose to live more liberally, away from the patriarchal family culture in Korea."
International matchmaking is a cultural phenomenon in a global era, wedding agencies say. They hope that the VWP may benefit many potential travelers to the States, including those whose dream life-partners may live across the ocean.
Yes, I'm using "pure" ironically. A couple of days ago the Korea Times told us that interest in matchmaking agencies is up nowadays.