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Guys, get a fancy car to sign up for Korean dating apps

Despite changes in gender roles, ‘men’s wealth for women’s beauty’ seems to hold true in dating scene

Men being judged by their wallets and women by their looks is not a new thing in the world of dating. But the app Gold Spoon has made it official, advertising itself as “the dating app for people in the top 1 percent.” (123rf)
Men being judged by their wallets and women by their looks is not a new thing in the world of dating. But the app Gold Spoon has made it official, advertising itself as “the dating app for people in the top 1 percent.” (123rf)

If you’re a single man and looking for love and marriage through dating apps in Korea, you’d better have at least one of these: A diploma from a high-ranking university, a high-paying job, a sizable net worth, or at least a luxury car.

These are the requirements for men to be qualified for a matchmaking service at the Gold Spoon app, which has more than 470,000 members.

“We thoroughly evaluate male candidates’ financial ability by looking into their employment contracts or real estate registries. Date highly-paid guys carefully screened by us,” reads its advertisement.

Its VIP clients consist of doctors, attorneys, and others with the highest-paying jobs, the app advertises.

As for the opposite sex, however, the Gold Spoon’s registration process is pretty simple. All one needs to do is to upload a selfie. If they receive an evaluation of 3.6 points or above out of a possible 5 based on that photo by existing users, the applicant is qualified. 

A screenshot of the first page of a mobile application “Gold Spoon,” which shows qualifications for men and women to sign up for a match via the app. (Gold Spoon)
A screenshot of the first page of a mobile application “Gold Spoon,” which shows qualifications for men and women to sign up for a match via the app. (Gold Spoon)

Gold Spoon is just one of many dating apps in Korea where men are more strictly evaluated on their financial capacity, while women are mostly judged by their looks.

“More than 40 percent of our female customers are in their 20s. They don’t blindly pursue men of wealth, but there’s surely a high level of preference for rich guys,” said Lee Hae-yeon, a manager at matchmaking company Duo.

“When it comes to economic power, I’ve hardly seen young female members who want perfect equality between men and women.”

Men desire younger, attractive partners while women seek those with resources to provide for the family. These are general mating preferences observed all across the world, although to varying degrees. In fact, evolutionary psychologists have long claimed that they are based on biology.

But does it still hold true in modern society, after all the changes in gender roles?

Aside from dating apps’ client evaluation criteria, many TV reality dating shows in Korea conform to the mating preference stereotypes of men’s wealth and women’s beauty.

Most of the shows’ male participants are older and have more established social and economic positions, compared to their female counterparts. While men who are doctors, lawyers, restaurant owners and startup CEOs often star in such programs, the female cast usually includes beautiful young ladies who are college students, aspiring actresses or are introduced just as office workers, as if their professions are not relevant information. 

Participants of Channel A's reality dating show “Heart Signal 2” and “Heart Signal 3
Participants of Channel A's reality dating show “Heart Signal 2” and “Heart Signal 3" (Channel A)


One of the most overused K-drama cliches is a superrich man falling in love with a beautiful girl from a poor family.

Twenty-six year-old Koh, who is a member of a matchmaking program run by Duo, says it’s just the way it is.

“Men’s wealth and women’s looks. I think it’s a reasonable trade-off,” Koh said. “Women wanting someone better than themselves is just as natural as people wanting more money. I don’t find any problems with different expectations for males and females in mating choices,” Koh added.

Kang Ho-young, a 28-year-old male office worker at a publishing company in Cheongdam-dong, Seoul, shared Koh’s view that being rich is a major plus for men in the dating scene.

“Dating beautiful ladies is sometimes much more difficult than landing a job at a large company. I think it’s worth earning a lot of money if I can date them.”

Some disagree.

Society glamorizing wealthy guys, and dating apps strictly evaluating only men on the criteria of wealth and status is gender discriminative, says Seong, a 32-year-old office worker.

Seong filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea in January last year, demanding disciplinary actions against the above-mentioned dating app, Gold Spoon.

“I think the dating app is gender discriminative because its excessive advertisements of male members’ wealth could strengthen misperceptions that men should be rich to date women,” he said.

The NHRCK acknowledged that there was “a possibility that the app could spread sexist prejudices” in a statement on May 20. However, it didn’t take any further action, saying the matter was “part of (the app’s) business strategies.”

Kim Tae-hwan, a 29-year-old graduate student, pointed out mating stereotypes are changing in tandem with changes in gender roles and perceptions.

“As seen with the phrase ‘men’s grooming,’ old stereotypes surrounding men have changed. The same applies for women. A growing number of men prefer women with a high paying job and social status,” said Kim, who is a member of the pro-feminist men’s group “Feminism with Him.”

“How much money you have is not the only thing that makes up your identity. There is more going on than meets the eye.”

Shin Jin-wok, a sociology professor at Chung-Ang University, noted that despite changes in society to move away from the bondage of patriarchy, there is a tendency among women to rely on men to provide for the family, amid various gender-related issues like the gender wage gap or women’s career breaks after marriage.

The expert thinks the dating apps’ advertising of male users’ financial capabilities to attract female users is a reflection of how things are in the dating world.

“Still, I think they can be a trigger for gender conflict. But rather than focusing on whether or not the dating apps are gender discriminative, it would be wiser to broaden our perspectives to social and structural problems that men and women both face in our society,” Shin said.

By Choi Jae-hee (cjh@heraldcorp.com)
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