I’ve written several articles about emulating Korean popular culture, discussing trends such as selca, emoticons, and gwiyomi and featured writer Suzy Chung has schooled us in all things Korea with her “How To” series, including “How to Be a Korean Mother-to-Be,” and “How to Be a Korean Couple”. One particularly fascinating aspect of Korean culture we haven’t managed to cover yet is dating like Koreans. So in honour of Valentine’s Day and all things lovey-dovey, let’s check out some of Korean’s hottest date spots and learn how to… Date Like Koreans!
If you wanna date like Koreans do, you gotta look the part first! Couple wear in the form of matching t-shirts, jackets, shoes, and head-to-toe matching outfits is the surest way to tell the world you’re in love. With the addition of some matching cell phone straps, shared headphones, and a little hand-holding, you’re well on your way to unending dating bliss. If you think that I don’t practice what I preach, then feast your eyes on this, a photo of me and my love of nearly three years sporting our finest couple’s attire! We have matching gym outfits too, if you’re wondering (and you’re not, I know).
If you found our ensembles more endearing than frightening, perhaps you’re wondering where to pick up your own set for Valentine’s Day (or perhaps not). Daegu’s Fashion Street or Dongseongno is my favourite place to shop and my boyfriend’s too! It’s perfect for couples since it’s lined with store after store selling both men’s and women’s fashions and a wide selection of couple attire. Seoul’s Myeongdong and Busan’s Seomyeon and Nampodong are close runners-up, but perhaps the fact that my beau and I spent a romantic Valentine’s Day on Daegu’s Dongseongno makes me a little biased.
A smashing outfit isn’t the only way to keep those embers of loooove burning; a hot date planned in a fun location will do the trick too. I don’t know why, but going up the tallest tower hand-in-hand with a loved one is always portrayed as the most romantic thing to do date-wise – just watch any Korean drama and you’ll see! Whether the appeal is the slow elevator ride to the top or the stunning views afforded there I’ll never know, but I can attest that posing for cheesy couple photos at the peak is lots of fun. If you want to try this classic Korean dating trick for yourself, plan a trip up the towering skyscrapers of Korea’s top three cities: Seoul’s Namsan or NSeoul Tower, Daegu’s WooBang Tower in eWorld amusement park, or Busan’s aptly-named Busan Tower in Yongdusan Park. Just be sure to keep hold of your lover’s hand lest you get lost in a sea of kissy-faced Korean couples! Braver duos can seal the deal by purchasing a love lock and scribbling your initials on it before throwing away the key. Just don’t let your partner catch you sneaking back to find it later!
Parks and gardens are also popular sites for celebrating blossoming love in Korea. There’s just something about strolling through the trees that makes conversation come easily, and winter weather gives you the perfect excuse to cuddle together for warmth. My friend Han Bin recommends The Garden of Morning Calm, gushing about how beautiful and romantic it is, and she should know – she went there with her husband on their one-year anniversary! Awww. Personally, I prefer the sprawling palace gardens. There’s no better way to foster a completely unrealistic vision of your future love life than to stroll through the grounds of ancient homes you could never afford! Even though palatial homes are somewhat out of reach for most of us, you can bring a few of your wildly unrealistic romantic fantasies to life in Changdeokgung’s Secret Garden, which seems to me the perfect place to begin a whirlwind love affair (just ask any of the gazillion Korean couples you’ll see there!). Now to just convince a certain someone to go with me, hrmmm…
I’ve also had a hard time convincing a date to join me for a ride on Korea’s largest Ferris Wheel! Perched atop the Lotte Department Store in Ulsan, this is the city’s unofficial dating hot spot. Glittering and romantic, with views that can’t be beat, it would appear to be a wonderful place for a date with your love… until you reach the top that is. Then it’s all terror and anguish with every sway of the cage until the stupid thing reaches the ground again. Doesn’t it give you romantic shivers? My boyfriend reported feeling just as fearful as I did, but alas we went separately and didn’t have one another to cling to. If you want a little hugging action from your partner, this is the place to go, but please don’t trick them into it!
For dating thrills at the ground level, try a romantic date at the cinema. I love Korean movie theatres and they’re top-notch for dates! Aside from the occasional cluster of teenagers, most theatres are stuffed full with couples young and old, and it’s no wonder – where else in the world can you cozy up in loveseats or dine in while watching your fave flick onscreen? If you want to immersive yourself in the Korean date experience, split a ban-ban or half-half popcorn with a couple’s cup of soda and win your date’s heart forever, or at least put an end to fighting over popcorn flavours! The only question that plagues me and my oppa: Who gets to hold the popcorn?
Another tried-and-true dating option is hit up a coffee shop! Korea has a huge café culture with thousands of coffee shops in Seoul alone. Reenact one of a million K-drama kiss scenes with your beau at you favourite coffee shop (you’ll even have an audience!) or try out a themed café, such as a cat, puppy, or board game café! If you think your partner cute now, just wait till you see them snuggling a cute puppy or kitten! How sweet is that? You could also try making something together, like making iced cookies or cupcakes at a cake room. Be sure to take lots of selca photos together too!
If you’re looking for something a little more high-end, dining out is a great way to impress your date. The wonderful thing about eating out in Korea is that all food is shared, so you can reenact that noodle-slurping scene with the spaghetti from Disney’s Lady and the Tramp without anyone thinking you’re a weirdo. From appetizers, to mains, side dishes, and desserts, everything can be shared with your partner and is made extra adorable by spoon-feeding it to them! How… touching? A personal favourite place to dine is in one of the many restaurants lining Gwangalli Beach in Busan, strolling along the beach after your meal hand-in-hand. Gents can earn extra cute points by piggy-backing their gal down to the sea. Some of my other go-to dinner date spots include Insadong’s traditional Korean restaurants and Daegu’s Pasta Street.
For the more culturally-minded, woo your lover and show off your limitless knowledge by touring a temple or museum together. Perhaps you could scour Dale’s temple blogs before you head out and pretend the knowledge was your own (don’t tell him I aid that!), or you could give Dale credit and still maintain an air of worldly learnedness. Museums are classic date destinations and there are so many to explore. My beau and I are partial to the Busan Museum of Art since we had our second date there but we also enjoy the Seoul Museum of Art and the National Museums (seriously, we’re nerds). The best part about museums is that you can learn together and most are low-cost or free! It doesn’t get much better than that.
Last but not least, the love doesn’t have to stop at Valentine’s Day. Oh no, you didn’t get away that easily! In Korea, some couples opt to celebrate couple’s holidays, falling on the 14th of each month. I’ll admit that my guy and I tried, but we never made it past Diary Day (in January), Valentine’s Day, and White Day (in February). Exclusively for couples, the 14th day holidays celebrate everything from Kiss Day in June to Green Day (not the band) in August. If you’re keen to give the holidays a whirl, check out WKB Ana Park’s article, The 14th Day in Korea.
Those are just a few of many popular Korean date options and I’m sure some are even popular in your country! What are popular dates in your country? Which Korean date would you like to try? Let me know in the comments!
Written by Jessica Steele for the Korea Blog. Content may not be reproduced without permission.