Should couples live together before tying the knot? If this question were asked 20 years ago, most Korean respondents would have expressed their shock and disbelief, much less show any willingness to weigh pros and cons.
Back to the present: Koreans are not so ultraconservative any longer and the number of Korean couples trying out cohabitation is on the rise. The proof is that even a mass-market romantic flick like "Lovers of Six Years (6-nyeonjjae yeonae-jung)" has chosen this daring topic and treats cohabitation as nothing special.
"Nothing special" is also a keyword for Da-jin (Kim Ha-neul), a hard-working editor at a publishing company, and her boyfriend Jae-young (Yoon Gye-sang), an equally diligent home shopping producer. Six years ago, they began to date. Two years ago, they started sleeping together. Now, they are next-door neighbors, but the wall separating their houses does not have any significant function. They virtually share their rooms -- and bedrooms at night. They know each other inside and out so much so that they begin to feel a bit bored, and the magical sparks and excitement is already gone. Their relationships seem to have passed a stage where something special is at work.
<**1>As with other cohabitating couples, there is a risk that Da-jin and Jae-young remain unmarried and yet share so many things in life. Infidelity is one of many risks, though it`s pretty fatal given that cohabitation does not entail as strong a commitment as marriage.
Da-jin tries to hire a top-notch book designer for her latest project. She juggles up various strategies to win the heart of this much-sought-after designer without realizing that her charm as an attractive woman goes rarely unnoticed. By the way, Kim Ha-neul seems at ease with her role, even in a scene where she has to act as an experienced lover.
While Da-jin has to stave off repeated come-ons from the new acquaintance, her boyfriend is forced to deal with an unabashed temptation from a daring part-time worker at the cable shopping mall.
But the movie does not tackle the issue of infidelity for this cohabiting couple as seriously as it should. Certainly it is an important plot device, but even before such outside forces emerge, they are already in a precarious phase where they feel too familiar with each other and have to seek some additional excuses to stick together -- more convincing excuses than they used to spend six years together as lovers.
In fact, couples who live together before marriage tend to believe that they have the opportunity to test how well they suit each other. But when confronted with overwhelming challenges such as one-night stands, cohabitation is likely to break down faster than those shackled in marriage, which is still held together by a relatively stronger ethic of commitment.
Yoon Gye-sang, former member of now-disbanded music group g.o.d., demonstrates his hidden acting talent by infusing some realism into the stereotypical Korean man character who is extremely generous about his own extra-cohabitation "romance" and unbelievably strict about his partner`s "fling." The lesson for women: when deciding to live with a man before marriage, don`t set a standard too high since men are generally not so reliable, much less genuinely romantic.
By Yang Sung-jin