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[Opinion] Marriage Spouse

Posted July. 13, 2005 04:12,   


In the world we’re living in today, people get married or divorced because of love. This may seem natural, but interestingly enough, it has not been that long since people started considering love as a prerequisite for marriage. It is not at all an exaggeration to say that even until the 18th century people got married regardless of whether they were in love or not. The marriage of royalty was a politically expedient marriage, which was strictly decided based on a thorough calculation of profit and loss. The most common type of marriage at that time can be understood as a “diplomatic trade.” Nobles considered marriage as a tool to expand their power and wealth. Peasants put the highest priority of marriage on economic status because larger land meant a secured living and sufficient amount of food.

In that sense, troubadour poets singing love poems were quite unprecedented. This folk song singing group from southern France in the 12th century admired a love affair of a man and a woman who fell in love at first sight at a beautiful party held at a palace. This “romance at a palace” is the origin of “romantic love” that became widespread afterwards. In those days, love affairs existed of course. However, most believed that love was possible only outside of marriage.

The “revolution of love” that started in the 18th and 19th century had incorporated love and marriage into one. As more people chose their spouses by themselves, love captured in a frame called immorality gradually started to be reconciled into the marital system. This was quite an achievement that the expanded “individual freedom” had brought in. In Korea as well, the “ideology” of regarding free love and marriage as the most ideal has long been rooted, but in reality, due to the nature of marriage, nobody seems to be completely free from external conditions, such as social status and class, religion, and education level.

The idea of marriage in Korean society is considered conservative according to a recent survey. Its samples have some limitations so the result might not be absolutely correct since they were provided by a marriage consulting company whose job is to match single men and women with similar backgrounds, but that doesn’t stop from reaching the conclusion that a marriage requires a couple to have similar economic and cultural backgrounds. This is not different from a situation in which singles from Gangnam, which is generally considered as an area where the highly educated and affluent people live, look for their spouses from the same area only. The trend of marriage is a mirror to the feature of society. As the proverb “Birds of a feather flock together,” today’s tendency of looking for marriage spouse with same background might be interpreted as a self-portrait of our society in which people have become narrow-minded daily and never take risks.

Hong Chan-shik, Editorial writer, chansik@donga.com