Matchmaking is booming in South Korea amid the global economic crisis, as fathers facing redundancy rush their children into marriage and jobless women find financial security in married life.
Some matchmaking agencies have reported big increases in the number of visitors to their websites, especially since the collapse of Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers in September, which triggered the turmoil.
AdvertisementMatchmaker Duo saw the number of visitors jump to 35,000 in the second week of November from 23,800 in the first week of September.
Another leading matchmaker, Sunoo, saw a two-fold increase over the same period. Wedian reported a whopping eight-time surge over a month starting October 22 when it shifted to a payment-after-marriage system.
Many parents sign up for the service because they want to get their children married off while fathers are still in work, Hyeong Nam-Kyu, a Duo director, told AFP.
He said the same phenomenon occurred when South Korea was hit by the East Asian financial crisis in 1997-1998.
In South Korea, guests bring envelopes of cash to marriages to help finance the costly events. Donors' names and their contributions are carefully recorded to return the favour on similar occasions.
A tradition of marriage through matchmaking is still widespread in South Korea, especially in the upper class.
Wealth and social status of the families involved, occupations of grooms and brides and even their looks are weighed carefully by matchmaking agencies before they arrange meetings.
Director Shin Yong-Seong at Wedian said many parents were seeking to marry off their children before their fathers reach retirement age or get laid off.
"You cannot ignore reality. I mean, bujo," he said, referring to the cash envelopes brought by wedding guests. For the rich and powerful, bujo may total hundreds of thousands of dollars.