Want to Marry a Korean? Here’s 7 Things You Should Know!

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So without him knowing it, you’ve been planning on marrying G-dragon for a whole year now. And in your stalker mind, you’ve even dreamed up your own wedding! Well if it ever becomes a reality, make sure you know what’s expected of you if you’re marrying a Korean! (Weirdo :P)

Note: This is a list of common expectations for when Koreans marry other Koreans. But of course if you’re a non-Korean, you will become a multicultural family, and that means your Korean lover and his/her family will have to adjust to you as well. So not all may apply.


1. You’ll Need Mommy and Daddy’s Permission
Son, don’t you be marrying no crazies!”

So you’ve been dating that Korean for a while now and you’ve even got the whole Korean style proposal thing done. The girl’s got the ring and the boy’s got the swag. Congratulations! But it aiin’t official yet. Although getting married is about love, in Korea, many people also see marriage as a union of two families. And that means most marriage plans are on hold until the scary moment when both sides of the family meet. The families of the potential bride and groom will get together for an official dinner at a nice restaurant to make sure no one’s getting married to a family of crazies. And even if it’s a real life Korean drama love story full of childhood first kisses, life threatening diseases and sacrificial eye transplants, if the parents say no, then the wedding might not happen. (Of course, people sometimes go ahead and do it anyway. :P)


2. Parents will Pick up the Tab
“Daddy, Can you buy me a wedding?”

Weddings are expensive ordeals in any part of the world, and people everywhere don’t hesitate to spend butt loads of money on that one special day. And of course, weddings can be very expensive in Korea too. But if you’re still at the bottom working your way up to the top manager position at the local McDonalds, don’t worry too much. In Korea, most young people are broke too. That’s why most families will pay for their share of the wedding costs. That means most brides and grooms in Korea will not pay for the wedding themselves, but their families (parents) will. Korean parents see marrying off their children as their very last duty as a parent. Goodbye, so long, fare thee well young child. It’s a crazy butt load of money (see #3), but they’ll get it back. Big time (see #7).


3. Splitting Wedding Costs is Crazy Complicated
Or just avoid by marrying a Samsung heir

Wedding costs are always tricky arrangements for any marriage, and that’s why most families will figure out things amongst themselves (i.e. if one family is richer than the other, they may offer to cover more of the costs). So if you somehow convinced the heir to the Samsung empire to marry you, you’ll most likely get the most bomb wedding ever for basically just being an awesome husband or wife. For the rest of the not-so-lucky 99.999941%, many Korean families will split marriage costs like this:

Groom Side Bride Side
Wedding Ceremony (50%) Wedding Ceremony (50%)
Honeymoon (50%) Honeymoon (50%)
Apartment/Housing – the home itself (100%) Furnishings like furniture, appliances, etc. (100%)
Yemul (예물) – Wedding gift for the bride Yedan (예단) – Wedding gift for the groom’s family

Splitting wedding costs can be crazy complicated and that’s why we need the scientific chart above. It’s easy enough to see the wedding ceremony and honeymoon are usually split down the middle. But the groom’s side typically provides the payment for the home/apartment, and the bride’s side usually provides all the furnishings inside the home. Fair and simple enough to follow right?

Ok, now see if you can follow this! The gifts involved might be the cultural part you might not have known about. Yemul (예물) comes from an old tradition of giving a bridge wedding gifts of red and blue yarn. Unfortunately for modern day cash-strapped grooms, that usually translates to a matching jewelry set: diamond ring, earring and necklace (or other jewelry). But brides return the favor with yedan (예단), a gift for the groom’s family, typically a cash gift that equals 10% of the housing costs as well as gifts for the family such as nice silverware, bags, jackets, etc.

Of course, none of this is set in stone as it’s different for every marriage (especially true for multi-cultural marriages!). This one you’ll have to talk out with your future Korean spouse/in-laws.


4. You Might Not Get that Cool Korean Name You’ve Always Wanted
Unofficial ones are still gravy tho 😛

In many places in the world, it’s common for the bride to take the groom’s family name. Ms. Smith becomes Mrs. Johnson in many places everyday. But if you’ve ever made up a Korean name for yourself because you think they just sound so darn cool, your dream of having an official Korean name might not come true. In Korea, brides keep their family names, even after getting married. That means even if Seonmi Choi marries Kyungsu Park, she will still keep the name her daddy gave her, Choi. But if you’re kind of creepily obsessed with having an Korean name, there’s no law against it. You can still do it at city hall. 🙂


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Keith Kim is a Korean-American who has been living in Korea for almost a decade. Being in a unique position as both a Korean and a non-Korean, he's put all his experience and knowledge for surviving in Korea in Survival Korean . Read it to learn how you can survive in Korea. Follow him on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.


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