| 22 February 2024, Thursday |

South Korean city turns to matchmaking to boost low birth rates

A group of one hundred South Korean men and women, dressed to the nines and with name tags slung over their clothing, met at a hotel close to Seoul amid the sound of Christmas tunes in the hopes of falling in love.

The government wants them to have children.

They were attendees of a nationwide blind-dating program organized by the city of Seongnam, which was an effort by the local government to stop the decline in the birth rate in a nation where marriage and the desire to start a family have plummeted.

The participants, in their 20s and 30s, sat quietly next to one another until a relationship coach kick started the event with a rock-paper-scissor game, quickly filling the room with chatter and laughter.

The city appeared determined to arrange a match, preparing red wine, chocolates, games, free make-up services, and even background checks for the participating singles.

Lee Yu-mi, 36, who works for the city government, said she had to apply three times to finally get a spot at the event.

“I had no idea it would be this competitive,” she said.

After five rounds of events this year, 198 people among 460 left the event as “couples,” agreeing to exchange contacts with their pairs, the city said.

The South Korean capital Seoul had considered a similar event but put the plan on hold after facing criticism that it would be a waste of taxpayers’ money that failed to tackle the reasons behind people opting not to marry and have babies – most notably the sky-high costs of housing and education.

  • Reuters