The Challenge of never having experienced a romantic relationship in South Korea

relationship in South Korea

In South Korea, romantic relationships hold considerable significance, often regarded as a societal expectation. Consequently, not being in a relationship can be seen as unconventional or even problematic. Within this cultural framework, being branded as "motae solo" carries significant stigma.

This term, originating from Korean slang and frequently abbreviated as "mossol," characterizes individuals who have never engaged in a romantic relationship. "Motae" translates to "mother's womb" in Korean, while "solo" signifies being alone. Hence, in a literal sense, it implies being "single since birth."

In her early thirties, a woman known as A disclosed her status as a 'motae solo' within an online community, opting to remain anonymous and vowing to guard this secret indefinitely. Typical Korean reactions to such circumstances often echo sentiments like: "What's wrong with them?".

Yoo, a 24-year-old academic, elucidated: "People tend to be more understanding, for instance, if a man in his twenties has never experienced a relationship and has recently completed high school. However, if a man in his thirties has never had a girlfriend, it can raise concerns for many women."


The Ramifications of this Negative Perception

It's natural to grapple with preconceived notions regarding individuals who have never experienced a romantic relationship. Many attribute this to physical reasons (which can be challenging), or perceive it as a genuine personal issue. Consequently, most 'mossols' conceal their situation, feeling labeled as 'abnormal'. A, as mentioned earlier, shared:

"I've often heard people insinuate that something must be wrong with women who remain single into their 30s. So, when people inquire about my relationship status, I simply fabricate a positive response. After repeating this falsehood countless times, I've almost convinced myself that I'm not a mossol."

Within online Korean communities, a significant number of individuals aged between 20 and 30 grapple with questioning their "normalcy" due to their lack of romantic relationship experience. The surrounding negative perceptions compound their anxieties, driving them deeper into distressing contemplation.

Does the single demographic have a place in Korea?

As screenwriter Noh Hee-kyung poignantly expresses: "Anyone who isn't in love right now is guilty." Amidst the prevalent couple culture in the nation, the ubiquity of couples is hard to overlook. From couple-centric articles, hashtags, and Instagram posts to special events tailored for couples, and even cafes and restaurants specializing in romantic settings - no facet of coupledom is left unexplored.

Furthermore, South Korea undoubtedly stands out as a country that commemorates numerous relationship milestones: 100 days, 1000 days, and beyond. And we're not just referring to Valentine's Day, White Day, or the notion that Christmas is seen as a couples' holiday. In such a societal climate, being "mossol" or single may appear peculiar, prompting individuals to further isolate themselves.

Lee So Young, approximately 20 years old, shares: "I experienced significant pressure to date during my time in college because I feared I would lag behind if I didn't have a boyfriend."

Nonetheless, the latest survey conducted by the local media MBC reveals a significant presence of singles and 'mossols' among young individuals. Out of 594 single men and women surveyed, 42.6% reported having no romantic relationships, with over 21% of them stating they had never experienced romance at all, equating to 1 in every 5 being a "mossol."

With an increasing number of individuals embracing the single life and a growing proportion identifying as "mossol," the perspective that being a "mossol" is a matter of personal choice is gradually gaining traction.

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