Relationships and age difference in Korea and Middle East

One of the famous on-screen younger man/older woman couple, the stars of "I hear your voice" drama, Lee Bo Young and Lee Jong Suk.

One of the famous on-screen younger man/older woman couple, the stars of “I hear your voice” drama, Lee Bo Young and Lee Jong Suk.

Age difference has always been a deciding factor for relationships success in Middle Eastern countries, that it’s refreshing to see how that aspect of a person is the last thing to determine a relationship’s success in South Korea. In middle Eastern countries, like online dating, younger men dating older women, is also a taboo. Though people might accept older men and younger women, they can’t with a situation when it’s the other way around.

The Middle Eastern society is considered a very conservative society, where men has to be considered dominant. The idea of a more mature woman marrying a younger man would go against the typical marriages and relationships in the Middle East. It can be interesting seeing that a 10 years time gap is accepted when a man is older, but not when a woman is older, especially in countries like Egypt.

That trend of younger men and older women was quite famous in Hollywood, but in a conservative society like South Korea, it was quite unexpected for it to be this popular. Some statistics show that during the last few years younger men/older women marriages became more often than same age marriages. But as with any society phenomena, pop culture had a role in reinforcing this idea in the upcoming generations through the years.

Lee Seung gi, the famous South Korean artist, debuted in 2007  with his song “Because you’re my Woman”, and the lyrics resonated with a lot of people, we can say that this song started the “noona phenomenal” . Korean men like to hear “oppa” from their younger girlfriends, but it seems it was replaced with their eagerness to find an older girlfriend, a noona.

After that that concept was everywhere in South Korea, songs like SHINee’s “Noona you’re so pretty”, or dramas like “I Hear your voice”, “My Lovely Kim Sam Soon” and “Dal Ja’s Spring”, and even reality shows like “We Got Married”, which featured two star couples in reality TV marriages, and the noona couples were among the most successful, either was it singers Ga In and Jo Kwon, or Hwang bo and Kim Hyun Joong. In real life, many Korean stars and actresses married younger men, like Baek Ji Young who married a man 9 years younger than her, and Han Hye Jin also married a man 9 years younger than her, just to name a few.

In the Korean society, these relationships were heavily criticized, but the society seems to accept it more with each passing year, even promoting them. It’s curious why the same thing wasn’t welcomed in other countries in the Middle Eastern region? There has been this recurring idea that a man has to be the main and only breadwinner for the family’s well-being, this made it harder for such relationships to flourish. But now as more women tend to prove themselves in their jobs, it doesn’t seem such a far-fetched idea as before.

People argue that you fall in love with a person not with their age, and while that remains true, the society we live in confines us to act accordingly. In Korea some statistics show a couple of reasons why both men and women would choose this kind of relationships, for women the number one reason was that age is just a number, with 48% expressing agreement. 13.3% of women agreed that by dating younger guys, they are able to live young. The third reason was that dating younger males are more enjoyable, according to 8.6% of those surveyed. While for men, 52.6% claimed that age is just a number, which was comparatively higher than women. Apart from this, 13.3% claimed that relationships with older women were more comfortable. Men felt comfortable since older women had more experience and was more mature.

It’s interesting that the “more experience and more maturity” points would be attracting for men in South Korea to choose older women, while in some Middle Eastern country that same aspect could be the very reason why such relationships might never work.

 

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