One major cultural difference between Korea and my home country is the way marriage is carried out.
In the U.S. it is relatively uncommon for people to make arrangements to marry without first dating continually for an extensive period of time. Getting to know the person is considered a very important prerequisite to marriage.
Knowing a person usually includes understanding the detailed aspects of their lifestyle. Also, compared to Korea, sexuality is more widely accepted in my country. Among North American people in my generation, talking about sexuality and openly expressing sexuality is generally acceptable, depending on religious background, etc. For those and other reasons, many people in the U.S. live together with their partner before marriage. Premarital cohabitation is not a controversial issue in my country.
Nowadays Korean culture is changing a lot, but historically, people usually had arranged marriages, which almost never happens in the country where I was born. Friends have told me that premarital cohabitation is happening more in Korea during recent times, but most people consider it to be shameful.
In Korea, the traditional expectation for women to refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage seems like a major factor in shedding negative light on premarital cohabitation. Trying to understand why chastity is expected of women but not of men is difficult for me. Aside from homosexuality, women and men usually have intercourse with each other, right? If a man acts in accordance with social norms and has intercourse before marriage, should he do it with a married woman? How does that work?
So far, I’m only capable of understanding complete equality between both genders. If a social expectation exists for one gender, the same social expectation should exist for the other gender, especially if the expectation has anything to do with gender relations. Since there are only two genders in this world, we ought to have balanced relations with each other.
My country has a similar imbalance of social expectations for both genders, and, of course, there are more expectations for women, just like any other patriarchal society. In my country as well, those expectations also correspond to sexual relations. However, women are not expected to remain in virginity until marriage.
North Americans usually don’t have arranged marriages, but the rate of marriage success is relatively low. The divorce rate in my country is much higher than that of Korea. In fact, United States’ divorce rate is the highest in the world.
Could it be that the institution of marriage catalyzes the gender inequality problem? Since women can now legally file for divorce, the divorce rate has become much higher. Questions need to be asked. How does marriage benefit men? How does marriage benefit women? I imagine the answers would differ from person to person. However, if the general answers to those two questions differ in remarkable ways, I would question the validity of marriage itself.