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Buddhist Monks in South Korea Take up Matchmaking


A recent event held at Jeondeung-sa, a Buddhist temple near Seoul, brought together three monks from the Jogye order of Korean Buddhism, 20 single laypeople, and a group of reporters. The event, titled “Naneun Jeollo” or “To the Temple,” marked the third edition of a matchmaking initiative organized by the Korean Buddhist Foundation for Social Welfare aimed at addressing the nation’s demographic challenges and promote social cohesion.

The participants were reminded of the country’s aging population and declining birthrate—factors that could impact the nation’s future. The organizers stressed the importance of active participation in finding suitable partners to address the low birthrate issue.

One organizer, pulling up a computer slideshow titled “Aging Society,” reminded participants: “I’m sure all of you have noticed how that daycare center in your neighborhood has one day turned into a nursing home.” The slideshow noted that birthrates in South Korea have halved in the last 20 years. “For the sake of the low birthrate,” the presenter stated, “all you have to do today is actively participate and find a good partner.” (Los Angeles Times)


South Korea faces demographic challenges common to many developed countries, including a high cost of home ownership, difficult work environments, and a breakdown in traditional gender roles. Today, the country has the world’s lowest fertility rate at 0.72. The rate required to maintain a stable population is 2.1.

Modeled after a popular matchmaking reality TV series called I Am Solo, the event garnered significant attention, due in part to the inclusion of Buddhist monks as hosts.

“We want to spread the word,” said Myo-jang, the monk who leads the Korean Buddhist Foundation for Social Welfare. “We’re hoping one day there will be an edition for every Buddhist temple in the country.” (Los Angeles Times)

Participants, carefully screened for genuine intentions, engaged in various activities aimed at fostering connections and potential matches. According to Myo-jang, the most important factor for those taking part was a strong desire to find love.

Throughout the event, professional emcee Shim Mok-min facilitated icebreaker games and speed-dating sessions, encouraging participants to interact and form connections. Despite initial apprehensions, the atmosphere gradually shifted to one of camaraderie and enthusiasm. Following dinner, participants engaged in meditative activities, reflecting the spiritual aspect of the event. Despite the positive atmosphere, some participants expressed frustration with the media presence, highlighting the challenges of balancing personal privacy with public attention.


As the event concluded, organizers announced several successful matches, while acknowledging the ongoing societal challenges related to marriage and family life in South Korea. Reflecting on the broader implications of such events, participants expressed skepticism regarding their potential to address the underlying issues driving the country’s fertility crisis.

“What really needs to be addressed is the cost of living and housing prices,” said participant Chae-won, as those around her nodded. “Right now, I already have my hands full just from looking after myself.” Concerning the added difficulty of having a child, she added: “I see colleagues getting the stink eye for having to take a day off because of their child. Things have supposedly gotten a lot better in that regard, but that’s still how it goes.” (Los Angeles Times)

Concluding the event, the temple’s abbot, Yeo-am, offered words of encouragement, saying that relationships were made not through burning love, but through accruing affection. He reminded them that ultimately, the greatest difficulties in life’s journey are faced alone.

“That’s something you must resolve on your own,” the abbot said. “No other person can save you from it.” (Los Angeles Times)

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Inspired by reality TV, Buddhist monks become matchmakers (Los Angeles Times)

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