May 24, 2016

    S. Koreans hire 'friends' to attend their weddings


    WITH wedding season approaching in South Korea, some local websites are again abuzz with pleas and some agencies are doing a brisker business as couples with few friends seek "fake guests" to fill their otherwise deserted weddings.

    A reporter from Joongang Ilbo recently responded to the plea of a bride-to-be on the Lemon Terrace website, where users share information about weddings, and agreed to play-act as her friend on her big day.

    And wedding guest agencies like Hagaek Friends are getting more calls to supply "friendships" - usually at a fee between 20,000 (S$23.30) and 50,000 won an hour.

    Chaemyeon, or the concern with face, is a strong compulsion in most Koreans that has seen weddings often embellished with "fake guests".

    But the practice has become more widespread since 2000, said sociology professor Choi Hang Seop of Seoul's Kookmin University. This shows that "Korea is becoming increasingly a society of 'lonely souls.'"

    A survey last month by JoongAng and Duo Wed, a wedding consulting company, showed that over 66 per cent of the respondents worried that their weddings might be short of guests.

    The reasons for their concern include "having been too busy and thus estranged from friends" and "a narrow social life", Joongang reported.

    More than 45 per cent said they would not be able to bear the "scornful" looks of the "real" guests in the event that few turn up at their weddings, according to the survey. AGENCIES