SEONGNAM, South Korea (News21USA) – Against the backdrop of Christmas songs, 100 South Korean men and women gathered at a hotel near Seoul dressed in their best clothes with name tags hanging from their clothes, hoping to find love.
The government expects them to have babies.
They participated in a massive blind date event organized in the city of Seongnam, an attempt by the local government to reverse the falling birth rate in a country where the popularity of marriage and enthusiasm for parenthood have plummeted.
The participants, aged in their 20s and 30s, sat quietly next to each other until a relationship coach kicked off the event with a game of rock, paper, scissors, quickly filling the room with chatter and laughter.
The city seemed determined to throw a party, preparing red wine, chocolates, games, free makeup services and even background checks on participating singles.
Lee Yu-mi, 36, who works for the city government, said she had to apply three times to finally get a spot at the event.
“I had no idea it would be so competitive,” he said.
After five rounds of events this year, 198 people out of 460 left the event as “couples,” agreeing to exchange contacts with their partners, the city said.
Seoul, the South Korean capital, had considered a similar event but suspended the plan after facing criticism that it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money and did not address the reasons behind people choosing not to marry and have babies. , particularly the sky. High housing and education costs.
Hwang Da-bin, who participated in an event in September, said it saved him the cost of joining other social events or signing up for professional dating agencies.
“We are facing a real demographic crisis and the government needs to do everything it can. I don’t understand why people are complaining about this,” Hwang said.
South Korea’s fertility rate fell to a record low of 0.78 last year, in another grim milestone for the country with the fewest expected children per woman in the world.
The figure is well below 1.66 in the United States and 1.3 in Japan in 2021. The average rate among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries stood at 1.58 the same year.
Jung Jae-hoon, a professor at Seoul Women’s University’s social welfare department, said it was “nonsense” to expect these developments to lead to higher birth rates.
“More money needs to be spent directly on supporting pregnancy, childbirth and parenting to call it a policy that boosts birth rates,” Jung said.
Despite the criticism, thousands of people have signed up for this year’s blind dating events organized by the city of Seongnam.
Seongnam Mayor Shin Sang-jin said spreading positive views on marriage would eventually help increase birth rates, and emphasized that blind dating events are just one of many policies his city has implemented to reverse the fall in rates.
“Low birth rates cannot be solved by a single policy,” Shin said. “It is also the city’s task to create the conditions for people who want to get married to find their partners.”