In South Korea, Christmas is a romantic holiday, rather than a family or religious celebration. Couples spend the day flaunting their status in matching sweaters and reindeer horn headbands, making dinner reservations for two, and raising the armrest between their seats at the movie theater. In order for singles not to feel quite so lonely this Christmas Eve, massive flash-mob style blind dates were organized across the peninsula. When I saw a video advertising Seoul’s Solo Daecheop event, meaning “Great Victory of Singles,” capturing a man and woman slowly running towards each other with their arms outstretched, falling in “love at first sight,” I knew this event would be a great source of entertainment.
When I arrived at Yeouido Park, an island in the middle of Seoul, hundreds of young adults mingled in the frigid, winter air. Single women wore red, single men wore white, and couples dressed in green. Lacking any sort of red outerwear, I carried a red purse and wore a colorful scarf with a red stripe running through the middle.
I expected the event to be organized, women on one side and men on the other, and at the sound of a whistle everyone would dreamily run towards the man or woman of their choice, like the video suggested. Unfortunately, the participants were too shy for that. Koreans don’t typically find dates in bars, clubs or gatherings comprised of strangers, but solely on blind dates arranged by friends or family members in their social circle. Consequently, groups of same-sex friends timidly eyed singles of the opposite sex. Some advertised their single status with slogans attached to their red or white attire, and a dog even wore a sign that stated, “I am also single,” complete with his age and dating profile.
I documented matching couples strolling around the park, singles in their cutesy outfits on the lookout for love, and vendors, hoping to earn some won by selling hand warmers and roses. The event was largely dominated by teenage men (or so it seemed) which was great for the 20% of ladies in attendance, but not so great for the lonely men looking for love on Christmas Eve. Since I attended the event with two friends, and one happened to be male, only one guy asked to take a photo with me. I certainly didn’t “fall in love at first sight,” but I’m certain that no one else did either.
-Text and photography by Sarah Shaw @ www.mappingwords.com. All rights reserved.