Having lived away from my parents and around my peers for the past 5 years in Seattle, I’m used to seeing a lot of my friends moving in with their boyfriends/girlfriends. It never seemed like a big deal to me because as I saw it, as long as both sides were responsible and mature, it could be a great learning experience. However, here in Korea it’s a whole different story. As a matter of fact, it’s almost a taboo here to live with someone of the opposite gender exclusively before marriage.
You can interview countless people in Korea why this is and they’ll give you a variety of answers while circumventing the one answer that is one their mind but won’t say aloud – ‘sex.’ And when I say sex, I’m referring to sexual relationships. Korea is still relatively conservative compared to many Western countries like the U.S. when it comes to this subject, and this transfers to their views on co-ed living. Many Korean parents worry that their son/daughter is not responsible enough to live with their significant other, let alone by themselves. You have to keep in mind that a vast majority of Koreans still live with their parents until they get married. This is not due to their financial incompetence, it’s just the way it is here. Independence is gained only when it is time to start your own family. And interestingly, most Koreans who are from this type of nuclear family tend to be way more protective of their offspring against their love interests.
Korean parents worry that if their kids start living away from home by themselves, there will be too many responsibilities that… well, they can’t be responsible for. This could be something as simple as doing their laundry, cooking meals, paying bills, etc. And of course, as this post suggests, bad sexual decisions. Because I’m pretty sure those Korean parents don’t want a grandchild until a knot has been tied. But in a country where single-mothers and love-child are highly frowned upon (these factors bring the entire family to shame for generations), it’s obvious why the parents can become overly protective and paranoid.
However, I have a lot of friends back in the U.S. who live with their boyfriend/girlfriend, and they have all proven to those around them that they are highly competent, responsible adults. They keep their places clean, they run errands, and they still manage to make time for the two to maintain a healthy relationship. Of course, there are obvious cultural differences that play a role here. The openness of sexual relationship is what nurtures and promotes a healthier sexual relationship among non-married couples.
Maybe because of the lack of open dialogue on sexual relationship, Korean couples tend to gravitate more towards materialistic aspects of relationships… such as couple rings, matching outfits (when I say matching, I mean from literally from head to toe…), exchanging ridiculously expensive gifts, creating couple bank accounts (which is another topic on its own that I’m thinking about discussing in the future)… Or they obsess over milestone dates such as 1 month, “2-2” (as the number suggests, literally the celebration of the 22nd day of the relationship, pronounced “two two”), 100 days, and other monthly dates that are just way too expensive and time-consuming in my honest opinion.
I think living with your boyfriend is a valuable experience. And I personally would not marry someone without having lived with that person for a period of time, because it’ll give me insight on how compatible we would be as a married couple and what type of person he is on a more intimate level. Of course, this would still be the tip of the iceberg, it’s still better than not experiencing anything. When I briefly interviewed my mom on this subject, she looked baffled and asked me: “why would you want to experience marriage before you’re even married?” I can understand that to some extent, but I would like to know my potential marriage partner better before I actually tie the knot. And living together gives you the opportunity to observe your partner on aspects that actually play a role in your marriage, such as how he/she deals with household responsibilities, or how he/she deals with sharing space, etc. And yes, “sex” may or may not be involved (that’s totally up to the individual). But I don’t think it takes the excitement away from marriage. Again, I have not personally lived with my partners before, so this is all coming from my personal opinions.
Korea has definitely opened up a lot on sex appeal. Meaning, the skirts have shrunk to unimaginable lengths, K-pop stars’ dance routines are becoming more burlesque-ish, plastic surgeons are perfecting one pair of breasts after another… The list goes on. However, Korea is still keeping its gates closed on the core of the subject. And that’s just the reality here. It might take years or even decades for the country to become more open about co-ed living. Or it may never happen.
What do you think? What are your opinions on this subject? How is this subject viewed in your culture?