In South Korea, Christmas is more of a romantic day for couples than a religious celebration. So to help Korean singles feel less lonely, organizers set up a series of mass blind dates across the country on Christmas Eve.
At the event in Seoul, Song Won-jae says he is feeling lucky. The 24-year-old, who just got out of the army, says it’s time for him to find a girlfriend. He’s not asking for too much.
“I hope I can meet someone with a good mind,” Song says. “And I know it’s a slim chance, but I hope she’s Christian like me. My parents would like that, since my dad is a pastor.”
Song is just one of a thousand or so singles who braved Seoul’s sub-freezing temperatures to join a Christmas Eve dating flash mob. Available women came to Yeouido Park wearing something red; the guys, something white. They used coded phrases to let each other know who’s on the market.
“Are you here to go for a walk? Do you want to go for a walk with me? he says.
Considering this is a flash mob, there was a quite a bit of stage-managing going on. Organizers had the men stand on one side of the park, women on the other. Then, the two sides converged. I lost Song in the sea of people.
The flash mob and other blind date events spread across social media here, and in a country where almost everyone uses a smart phone, news of events like these travels fast.
Yu Tae-hyung, who came up with the idea for the mass blind dates, says he’s surprised how much attention they got in both social and traditional media.
“I created a Facebook dating site to help me get over my own break-up a few months ago,” Yu says. “But then I posted that we should have one giant dating event for Christmas and it just took off from there.”
Yu says he thinks the mass blind dates were so popular because being single on Christmas is just “boring.” Television networks play the same movies, like “Home Alone,” every year and people would much rather go out on dates for the holiday.
Back at dating event in Yeouido Park, the crowd shouts “kiss” at a young man and woman who seem to have hit it off.
But when I finally find Song Won-jae again, he tells me it wasn’t his lucky day after all. He asked four different young women to take a walk with him, but they all said no thanks. He attributes some of his bad luck to an overwhelming gender disparity.
“It’s too bad there were so many guys here,” he says. “But all I can do is keep trying.”
He’s not going to let it ruin his Christmas, though. Song says he’ll probably just end up watching “Home Alone” on television, like he does every year.