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Bryna Singh
Thursday, Jun 5, 2014

K-sweethearts

The Straits Times | Bryna Singh | Thursday, Jun 5, 2014

Korean Jeong Yu-Seon married Singaporean Vincent Kuang in Singapore three months ago.

When Singaporean Vincent Kuang first met Ms Jeong Yu-Seon here last January through mutual friends, he had little interest in Korean culture.

"I knew nothing about Running Man (a popular South Korean variety programme) and did not watch K-dramas," says the 31-year-old engineer.

He also never had the desire to date a Korean, although he confesses that, in his younger days as a big fan of Japanese culture, "I wanted to marry a Japanese woman".

"But it doesn't matter now," he deadpans, having married Ms Jeong in March after dating for a year. "Connection is more important."

Many here are into K-pop, K-dramas and K-cosmetics. Yet, most Singaporeans in K-marriages will say Korean culture was not a factor in choosing their mates.

Korean cultural experts say such Singaporean- Korean unions have increased in recent years, although their observations are anecdotal.

This likelihood is statistically supported, however, by the estimated number of Koreans living in Singapore. Mr Yoon Jaewoong, press and culture counsellor at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea in Singapore, suggests that this figure has "increased from around 20,000 to around 25,000 in the last five years".

Dr Sun Jung, research fellow at the National University of Singapore's Asia Research Institute, says that the increase in Korean- Singaporean marriages here is in line with the increase in trans-national marriages globally, thanks to globalisation and the increased trans-national flows of people and culture.

"People have easier access and increased familiarity today to foreign cultures and people, and are ready to embrace foreignness," says Dr Jung.

Of the five couples that SundayLife! spoke to, one met while both parties were studying overseas in the United States, one met while the Korean other half was holidaying alone here, and the rest met because their Korean other halves were working here.

Mr Yoon suggests that Singaporean men may be attracted to Korean women because of their "elegant looks, fashion sense, and their motherly and caring nature as portrayed in dramas and films".

Bank employee Jermyn Chua, 31, agrees with that. He says he was drawn to his Korean wife's "homely, domesticated nature".

"She could cook and seemed like she could run the household well," he says.

Mr Kuang, however, only partially agrees with Mr Yoon's suggestion.

On his first encounter with Ms Jeong, a manager at Korean barbecue restaurant chain Ju Shin Jung in Singapore, he says: "She looked feminine but was intimidating. She spoke in a very authoritative manner, like a boss."

Laughing, Ms Jeong, 35, says her work in a managerial position for the past nine years - five in Korea and four here - calls for her to be a "strong lady".

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