Some Thoughts on Arranged Marriages and K-dramas

Disclaimer: This little rant of sorts does not reflect the opinion of anyone else but myself. I also don’t expect anyone to agree with me.  All I ask is that everyone who reads this becomes ever so slightly more open in perspective. This is not that important of an issue, but an interesting one regardless. 

I think I will be the only one on this entire planet who would get upset about this, but I am upset nonetheless.  See, when it comes to arranged marriages, I get really irritated by the people who think that getting an as arranged marriage some sort of curse to have befallen you.  Some of the first inquiries I get as a somewhat traditionally-raised Indian-American include “Oh, are you going to get an arranged marriage one day? Aren’t you worried about that?”

First of all, I started getting those kinds of questions around age thirteen, where I was way more focused on school, extracurriculars, and having fun with friends than I cared about getting married. I still don’t care about getting married, nor do I know what my marriage pathway is going to be like. It’s not as though it is anyone’s business but mine. Secondly, why is getting an arranged marriage so terrible? I personally don’t think romance is necessary for a very successful marriage at all, and I don’t think that society should dictate that “love and romance” should have to be the basis of a relationship between two people.

I’m not implying that we should stop all romances and dating altogether or anything. I’m not even implying that romance isn’t important or a bad thing.  What I am saying though, is that romance is not a requirement for being happy with someone. Often times, the best marriages occur between friends who know how to give and take from each other. Arranged marriages are not only a marriage of two people, but two families. It’s not just about having two people who hate each other come together, but its about the willingness of two people to trust each each other and each other’s families and go through the journey of life together. With that perspective, conflicts tend to be way easier to handle as a couple because you’re not going into a long-term relationship with clouded vision. You know you’ll disagree, you know things will get rough, you know that it’s not an easy ride; but the important thing is that you can depend on someone to work through it all. So yes, there are benefits to having an arranged marriage, and no, life isn’t hell if you choose to marry someone in that manner.

My frustration, however, is not that arranged marriages are looked down upon, because I really don’t care what other people think about that. It’s when certain people who end up in an arranged marriage who fall in love with other people seem to think that they can act like jerks to their married partner, (such as Lee Soon in Jang Ok Jung, Live in Love this past week on episode 6) that I’m not a happy camper. People were talking about how awesome and emotive Yoo Ah-in (who I still think is pretty awesome) was in that scene with Queen In-kyung when he basically told her that everything friendly and nice that he does with and for her is just for show, but I was royally (no pun intended) infuriated. Treating your wife like that, arranged or not, is probably the most horrible thing you can possibly do to someone who has to live with you for the rest of their life.  If I were In-kyung, and if I wouldn’t get beheaded on the spot, I would have slapped that dude in the face right then and there for being a complete jerk-face (Okay, I wouldn’t really, but you get the point.)  It’s really sad that people attempted to portray what Lee Soon did  as attractive, because in my eyes, it totally isn’t. It’s rather crappy, and I can’t justify what he did in any way, whether or not he loves someone else. By agreeing to marry her (In-kyung,) Lee Soon made commitment to be a good husband. I don’t care whether if it’s political or not, or if a hidden agenda is involved, he has to treat his wife properly (this goes for the wives too.) Honestly, would anyone treat anyone else the same way and get away with it? Would someone teach someone else how to play a sport and be super helpful and kind, and then say “Sike! Just kidding. I hate your guts?”

If it was just Lee Soon, I wouldn’t be so annoyed; however, this is something I’ve seen for a while, and it’s only now that I seem to blow my top. (It’s come up in When a Man Loves, half of the Historical Romances, a third or so of the dramas having to do with a chaebol, a la Can We Get Married?) It’s probably because I’m sympathetic towards In-kyung, whereas usually I don’t like the lady in question being harassed by the guy who’s technically supposed to be a knight in shining armor. Actually, that shouldn’t be making any difference, but I too have my prejudices, I guess.

I could try to justify the scene by suggesting its importance in the plot line; possibly to show how Lee Soon is trying to weave through the minefield provided by the warring factions in his government, and is willing to take great lengths to get there. But does it really need to take the time to crush In-kyung’s heart on top of her dignity when her political maneuvers are so few? Maybe, for the sake of forwarding romantic developments with Ok-jung and Dong-yi. However, I’m not too keen on any of these justifications, since I think that there are plenty of other ways to convey all of that that are far less offensive.

I’m fully aware that none of this is going to change, because it isn’t something that people normally care about or find to be an issue. Regardless, I hope that people can start to understand that a successful marriage doesn’t require love, but patience and nurturing of trust.  If love precursors that or blooms from that, well, that’s fine too.

(Image credits to respective owners, SBS (via Koala’s Playground))


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