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It makes as many as 17, matches a month. Duo chief executive officer Park Soo Kyung said the firm's motto is to pair singles with the aim of making "happy marriages". It has managers who talk to members to further define their ideal partner and dating coaches to advise them on how to carry themselves in order to win over their dream man or woman.

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A typical male member is a year-old university graduate who earns 40 million won a year, while a typical female member is a year-old degree holder earning 30 million won a year. Matchmakers have traditionally played a key role in Korean society, said Ms Park. That's why they relied on matchmakers to collect detailed information and recommend a suitable match," she said. Marriage in modern times has become a pursuit of free love and individual happiness, leading to the wane of the professional matchmaker.

However, with young people now becoming more pragmatic in their attitude towards marriage, they "would use information from matchmakers to find their ideal partners as they feel it is a rational thing to do", said Ms Park.


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She added that as getting married and starting a family require big sums of money, young people don't want to risk going into it without knowing their partner's socio-economic background and financial status - information which dating agencies can provide. People care more about economic status and what university one graduated from, and that could be the reason why they are turning to dating agencies that have a lot of that data.

One concern, however, is that dating agencies rank members based on criteria that are "heavily weighted on materialistic indicators and aggravate gender discrimination", Prof Kim said.

S Koreans turn to dating apps and matchmakers to find partner

For example, some occupations with looks as a prerequisite, like flight stewardess, are ranked higher. Another reason for using dating agencies is that social circles have shrunk, with more people preferring to spend their free time alone, often glued to their smart devices. Young people are less able to rely on friends and family to fix them up with a date, unlike in the past. Then, one could go for "sogaeting", a one-on-one blind date with a friend's friend, or "meeting", a small gathering of six to eight singles who typically break the ice by playing some kind of drinking game.

Nightclubs would offer a so-called "booking" service, where a middleman would help men to approach women who they fancy and take them to their tables for a drink. For financial consultant Choi Min Hee, 35, it was her mother's colleague who introduced her to her husband, an office manager, a decade ago.

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Ms Choi said she was under family pressure to marry early and, as fate would have it, her date turned out to be her ideal man. They were married within a year of their first meeting, and they now have two children - a seven-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son. South Koreans today are also less anxious about getting married, with marriage now viewed as an option and not a must.

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