By Jung Min-ho, Kim Bo-eun, Bahk Eun-ji
Dinner is done, conversation dwindles and the date is about to end, when the check arrives, who should pay ― the guy, the girl or both? Until recently, the answer was easy. In a male-dominant Korean society, the money came out of the man's wallet, regardless of who asked whom out.
Though most may struggle to explain the legitimacy of the "rule", this was the way things were. Although not set in stone, it was a general agreement that few gentlemen had the guts to overthrow.
Basically viewed as an act of chivalry for men to pay for women, many men may feel embarrassed if they don't. There is still the male ego to buoy and years of social conditioning to abide by.
However, changing social norms and issues of gender equality have started muddying the water on who is strong enough to pick up the bill.
Today an increasing number of women work, sometimes at better jobs than their male counterparts and this is changing gender rules. While some women still expect men to pay on dates, more are willing to chip in.
As society moves toward a more gender-balanced one, many men with tight wallets are wondering about the most appropriate way to treat women.
"I have seen many women refuse to pay for a fair portion of dating costs, which, I believe, is getting worse nowadays", said Kim, a 27-year-old graduate school student. "I don't think it's fair given the men-have-to-pay-all rule originated from the time when only men were making money, but now it is no longer true".
Kim said most young guys feel pressure when dating or even meeting girls in the first place because of money issues. "Or course I want to meet girls, but the trouble is that I can ill afford to", Kim said.
It's not even funny
Since this has never been a big issue here, many have come up with their own way to adjust to changing norms of who should be responsible for picking up the bill. But these different, diverse approaches usually end up generating more arguments.
This delicate issue of who should pay on dates has recently emerged as a key theme and subject of comedy shows as seen in a rap by popular comedy-singing group Brave Guys that star on "Gag Concert".
Girl: I take out my mileage card when we're about to pay for the meal at a restaurant.
Girl: Because I have to accumulate points on my card.
Boy: What about the bill?
Girl: I gotta go to the bathroom.
Their album, "Wait and Prepare", released on March 26, has drawn extensive attention, claiming the top place on online charts for some time. The group has performed on pop programs and is also to appear in concert with major K-Pop stars later this month.
The content of the group's spot on the comedy show centers around a couple in which the girl expects the guy to spend all his money on her.
Hyungdon and Daejun, a group comprised of a comedian and a singer also released a single on June 5, which is gaining increasing popularity.
One of their songs has a similar theme, about a girl who doesn't like to spend money on dates but instead expects her boyfriend to buy her expensive gifts.
It includes lines such as, "When you buy it's kimbab, when I buy it's steak" and "If you go alone it's window shopping, if I come with you, it's real shopping".
It seems that the reason these comedians/singers are becoming ever more popular is that people are able to empathize with their lyrics. Although they are a little exaggerated to evoke humor, the words do seem to reflect reality, at least to a certain extent.
Let me just pay for it
While some men are bothered by the fact that they are expected to pay more, others don't really mind doing so. Kim Yong-min, 27, says he pays around 90 percent of expenditures on dates with his 29-year-old girlfriend Woo.
"Although both of us work, I earn a lot more than my girlfriend does, so I pay more", he said.
"Another reason is that girls need to spend much more on cosmetics, clothes and other stuff, so I think it's natural that guys, who spend relatively less on their appearance, bear more of the expenses".
Kim's view is that although more women are working compared to the past, men still earn not only more, but also for a longer period, which enables them to pay more on dates.
"Actually, when we first met, my girlfriend used to pay more than she does now, because she is older than me", said Kim. "But, now, I don't let her pay even if she offers to".
Can you put price on love?
For many women, the days are gone when they wait to be treated to dinner and drinks on dates. More and more women are willing to pick up the tab these days.
"I'm really mad at people making such a fuss about the matter in the media. Only a small number of girls spend absolutely nothing on a date", fumed freelance interpreter Lee Jee-hyun.
She says the media exaggerates the situation as if all women have the same mindset towards spending money on dates.
"I have a regular income as a working woman, so there is no reason to be financially dependent when I am on a date".
However, it would be a little awkward, if a couple "goes Dutch" or splits the bill down to the last penny on every occasion since the Korean social atmosphere imposes more responsibility on men when it comes to paying.
"If my boyfriend and I were studying without a regular job, we would split the bill as penniless students", said Park Ji-young, a 25-year-old college student.
"My boyfriend, however, is an office worker and I'm a college student. I don't think there is any problem for my boyfriend to pay more than me at this stage.
"Besides, I want to give my boyfriend opportunities to feel some mannerly pride. He will be offended if I pay more than him every time", she added.
Korean society is moving toward gender equality, although there is a long way to go. The older generations still believe men should perform some chivalrous acts occasionally.
"Guys tried to meet social expectations through the behavior of spending more money than women, and the mindset still remains unchanged among our generation", said Park.
The more important issue at this point is that couples set their own rules for spending while dating. It is unfair to judge others, as each couple has a different story.
"Spending lots of money isn't necessarily linked to the depth of people's love. You can't put a price tag on love, can you?" asked Park.
Source : www.koreatimes.co.kr/... ( English Korean )
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