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Some feel cheated by pricey matchmakers

Some professional matchmaking companies lack personnel and services

Age: 35. Gender: male. Occupation: working for a sales department at a pharmaceutical firm. Goal: to get married. Soon.

Kim Dae-jin (alias) thought he was all set to tie the knot when he gave out his personal information to sign up at Gayeon, one of the better-known matchmaking companies in Korea, next to Duo.

He had been skeptical going into the deal, but his matching manager in charge of his blind dates persuaded him otherwise.

Kim certainly thought he had paid enough — 1.7 million won ($1,500) to be introduced to five women. His manager informed him that the time was unlimited, promising him more dates even after his membership expired.

But a year passed, and he’s still single. One change is that he’s seething.

Kim’s main complaint was that he was not given photographs of the women he was to be introduced to, and that none of the women he met were people he wanted to ask out on a second date.

He questioned why, for example, he was set up to meet a woman five years his junior who had no intention of getting married for at least the next two years.

He also said Gayeon provided a single profile at a time, meaning that he felt he had no choice but to meet the woman in question.

“I really had no alternative because every time I was given just one profile, so whether I liked it or not, I was compelled to meet her,” the former Gayeon member said.

He admitted that he may have been at fault for not meeting with any of the women on a long-term basis, but he stressed that they had nothing in common, and that each match itself was ill-made.

Kim was also peeved over the fact that his matching manager went on maternity leave, and another manager — a “couple manager” who is usually in charge of orientation for new members and not the actual matchmaking process — took over.

In other cases, members said they found out that their dates had a boyfriend or girlfriend. The managers, however, dodged responsibility, saying they could not have known such things.

“If they tell us they are single, we have to trust them,” said one former manager at a matchmaking company.

Gayeon declined to talk about the complaints, saying a few disgruntled members were papering the Internet with their stories. The company’s spokeswoman requested The Korea Herald to “not write the article.”

Kim’s story is more than common among the nation’s single population, which has been rapidly growing as of late.

As of this year, the number of one-person households reached 4 million. The marriage age is also higher, with women getting married at an average 29.1 years old, while the age for men is 31.9, according to Statistics Korea in a survey this year.

Compared to 20 years ago, the age at which people got married rose by six years for men and five years for women, the figures showed.

The meaning of such a phenomenon is multifold, but one is that it’s getting harder to tie the knot, which is why people like Kim turn to matchmaking companies, hoping to save time by leaving things to the professionals.

“I thought I could focus on other things,” he said.

Intentionally ill-made matches 

Duo, considered the nation’s top matchmaking company, was not without complaints.

Choi Soo-hyun (alias), a 32-year-old female, still fumes when she thinks about the “human bomb” she met on a blind date set up by her couple manager.

In Korea, people jokingly refer to unattractive blind dates as “bombs.”

Choi, who was registered with Duo, said her manager literally begged her to meet a young man she thought would be a good match for her.

The date, however, went very, very badly. He was rude and full of inappropriate sexual pick-up lines, she said.

“It was for this I paid over 2 million won. It was ridiculous. I sent her an email asking how in the world she thought this guy who is so openly and obviously obnoxious would be a good match for me,” she said.

Many who have signed up at these matchmaking firms complain that they were persuaded — or at least asked persistently — to meet with someone not to their liking.

In some cases, the manager would come right out and ask her client to do her a favor by meeting a complete “zero,” promising compensation. This was so that the client would be set up on dates and not demand their money back.

For some of the wealthier men with sought-after jobs, going out on dates was like a side job.

Depending on their social and financial status, men of higher rank would be asked to join almost for free to meet women at whim; the women, however, would not know and would use up her “meeting chances” to meet guys who had no intention of settling down, at least not with them.
Korea’s top matchmaking companies Gayeon (top) and Duo (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
Korea’s top matchmaking companies Gayeon (top) and Duo (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)

“It’s hard for us, too,” said a spokesman for Duo. “This is a business dealing with people, and the most accurate and objective data is not going to rule out exceptional cases and people.”

These complaints show that although the matchmaking companies claim they have all the important information, and that it’s all certified, some clients may be deficient in some way, if not on the exterior.

In the end, the matchmakers make decisions based purely on figures, and not on the people.

Glaring lack of professionalism

There are up to 2,500 matchmaking companies in the country. Out of them, only about 100 are big enough to operate websites. It’s that easy to set up a matchmaking company, and the CEOs of these firms rarely have any related credentials.

The situation was pretty much the same for the so-called couple or matching managers employed by the matchmaking firms. One called Sunwoo had a CEO who was a certified marriage consultant, authored books on matchmaking and had majored in a related subject in college.

Duo claimed that its managers were trained and stayed on the job for at least four years, but the firm declined to tell The Korea Herald of their specific credentials.

Gayeon had pictures and contact information for its managers on its website, but no other credentials were available, and the public relations office refused to disclose information regarding employees.

Some of the former members of some of these firms said they found themselves in shouting matches with the managers at times, and that only the customers who stood up for themselves to complain ever got attention and proper reimbursement.

Duo, Gayeon, Sunwoo, Noblesse Soohyun — whatever their name — are all in the business of connecting people, and for hopefully a lifetime. Regardless of what they may claim about the difficulties of their business, their responsibility is great.

Duo last year had sales of 29.2 billion won, while Gayeon had 10 billion won. As they say, the people business pays the most, it seems.

By Kim Ji-hyun (

<관련 한글기사>

충격! 결혼정보회사에 당하는 '모태솔로'

듀오에 가입한 A씨 (30)는 최근 커플매니저에게 크게 실망했다고 한다. 거의 강요에 가까운 그녀의 권유에 프로필을 받고 만나봤던 여성이 그야말로 폭탄이었기 때문이다.

외모가 아니라, 인성이 문제였다. 예의를 어디다 팔아먹었는지 알 수 없는 “무개념녀”이었던 것이다. 

만원에 가까운 돈을 내고 가입한 A씨는 화가 나서 항의를 했고, 추가 서비스를 받기로 했지만, 그래도 꺼림칙한 기분은 어쩔수가 없었다.

또 다른남성 가입자의 경우, 커플매니저가 대놓고 부탁했다고 한다. 고객중에 소위말하는 "스펙"이 떨어지는 여성이 있는데, 한번만 만나주면 매칭기회를 더 주겠다고 말이다. 그 남성은 결국 데이트에 응했다.

최근 급성장을 하고 있는 가연의 경우, 결혼 의사가 없는 여성과의 만남을 주선해서 남성 회원의 원성을 사기도 했다. 오랜 싱글 생활을 접으려고 가입했는데, 결혼 생각이 없는 여성과의 만남으로 매칭 기회를 낭비한 것이다.  

결혼정보회사들은, 사람을 상대하는 업이고, 고객정보를 최대한 확인하지만, 악의적으로 거짓말을 할 경우, 어쩔 수 없는 측면이 있다고 하소연한다. 실제로 어떤 회원은, 결혼정보회사를 통해 만나 사귀던 도중, 상대 여성을 우연히 다른 곳에서 만났는데, 알고보니 남자친구가 있었다. 

소위 말하는 “스펙”이 좋은 남성들의 경우, 돈을 안내고 무임승차해서 이 여자 저 여자를 만나며 결혼정보회사의 회원관리를 해주는 경우도 있다. 

가연은 이런 불만들은 몇몇 회원에 불가하다며 일축했지만, 각종 웹싸이트에 올라오는 글을 보면, 그렇게 쉽게 넘어갈 문제가 아닐 수 있다.

가장 큰 문제는 전문성 부족이라고 회원들은 입을 모아 말한다.

전 제 배필을 맡긴건데, 나중에 문제가 생겨 제가 항의를 하자 무조건 자기탓이 아니라고 우기시더라구요,” 라고 한 여성 회원은 전했다. 

실제로 결혼정보회사를 운영하는 임원진도 전문성이 결여된 경우가 많다. 선우와 듀오와 선우 등을 제외하고는, CEO가 관련업계에 경력이 있는 경우가 드물다. 

회원들은, 모태솔로를 탈피하고픈 노총각, 노처녀들, 젊은 시절 일찌감치 짝을 만나고 싶은 남녀 등 전문적인 매치메이킹에 대한 수요가 증가하고 있는 만큼, 더 책임있는 서비스가 필요하다고 말한다.

김지현 / 코리아헤럴드 기자