Why is celebrity dating in Korea so different from the West? Take for example in Hollywood, a romantically linked celebrity couple either personally confirms their relationship, or they just go about their way and try to date like everyone else. Of course, two famous celebs “going public” as a couple comes with a package of paparazzi, entertainment coverage, and fanfare. But it’s not quite the same in South Korea, where stars dating tend to immediately be labeled as a “scandal.”
The dating lives of Korean stars are quite complicated, as they consider it as an affair not just between two people, but with several other entities involved: the stars’ home agency and the fans. They also have an image to protect, which is why it makes it harder for them to date freely in public. But this isn’t to say that celebs dating is impossible; in fact, many of them resort to different ways to maintain their love lives.
Here are just some of the ways celebrities manage to date:
A romantic trip far away
For celebs, one of easiest and perhaps most obvious way to avoid prying eyes is to go on a trip abroad to literally escape everybody. This way, they can not only get some well-deserved R&R, but also spend sweet moments with their beau without any interruptions. It’s also easy to downplay suspicions, as one can say they went there for a shoot, while the other could say they were there for a vacation. It’s also unlikely for them to run into people they know if they’re in another country, and they can pretty much go around without the locals recognizing them.
Whether it’s a relationship in its beginning stages, or just a rumor and not confirmed by both parties, going on trips is a good way to spend some quality time together and have fun, regardless of a celeb couple’s status.
One example of a famous couple who tried to keep their romance away from the spotlight by taking trips abroad was Song Hye Kyo and Song Joong Ki. The Song-Song couple is well-known for their chemistry, which sizzled on screen in “Descendants of the Sun.” Apparently the flames continued as they were rumored to have been dating afterwards and were reportedly caught together on a trip outside of Korea.
Here are photos taken by Dispatch from their Tokyo trip:
For other stars who are not official, they keep everyone guessing and are completely careful about being photographed together. But some eagle-eyed fans are still able to spot some clues in the stars’ social media accounts that reveal the couple’s alleged location. This happened when Sulli and brand director Kim Min Joon went to Cuba and were exposed when netizens noticed Kim Min Joon’s reflection on a painting in one of Sulli’s photos.
The same thing happened when netizens dug up photos of BIGBANG’s G-Dragon and Jooyeon’s possible trips together as a couple. The two appeared to have taken a vacation in Hawaii, as photos from their Instagram accounts showed similar locations and the same dates. Their respective agencies denied the rumors, saying that the two stars went on the trip because of an event. At the beginning of 2017, Dispatch also revealed that the “couple” seemed to have taken another trip together in Jeju. Either they are being careful about dating by literally going the distance, or perhaps they’re just good travel buddies.
Netizens speculated that G-Dragon and Jooyeon went to Hawaii together because of their similar Instagram posts.
Playing sports together
Celebrity couples also “play it safe” by playing sports. It’s a way for them to indulge in a similar hobby, and it’s also easier to explain away if ever they get caught in the same location together. This worked for BoA and Joo Won, as the two health buffs would go hiking and play golf together. Both agencies of the stars had previously confirmed their relationship, but unfortunately, this cute couple stopped sailing as it was officially announced by both parties that they had broken up before the end of 2017.
A photo of Joo Won and BoA playing golf which the stars uploaded on their Instagram accounts almost at the same time
It seems like golf is becoming a popular leisurely sport choice for most stars. Another golf-enthusiast couple is former 9MUSES member Euaerin and actor Lee Jung Jin. They first started going out in groups to play golf until they got closer and officially became a couple. They have been dating for about seven months.
Euaerin and Lee Jung Jin photographed together with their golf group. The two have since confirmed their relationship.
Another advantage of playing sports is being able to conceal your identity, especially if it requires wearing gear that covers faces. This was true for Krystal and Kai, SM Entertainment labelmates who officially admitted that they dated for about a year in 2016 (they later broke up because of their busy schedules). A source told Dispatch that both are foodies and that they bonded over leisure sports, sometimes going skiing together. They weren’t recognized because of all the ski gear they were wearing. It’s hard not to get recognized when you’re as beautiful as Krystal and Kai, but winter gear gave them a clever way to hide their identities!
Another couple who got close because of sports is Jang Hyunseung and professional bowler, Shin Soo Ji. According to reliable sources, the two were spotted having a date at a bowling alley. Their agencies have since confirmed their new relationship.
Cube Entertainment released a statement, “They’ve been dating for about four months. They grew close through bowling.”
Bonus: Idol Star Athletics Championships
Speaking of sports, the members of Girl’s Day revealed in an interview that the annual Idol Star Athletics Championships is an “it place” to occasionally date, or at least a place where love blooms. Because it’s where all the idols gather and interact in one place, some stars use this opportunity to make their moves by passing secret love notes to the ones they’re interested in.
Hyeri said, “It’s funny because we can see things when we go to programs with a lot of idols. There could be someone’s ex and an ex-ex boyfriend.” Yura agreed, “There are so many people there, and I start thinking that there must be at least 10 couples.” Hyeri added, “But love doesn’t happen at that spot. It’s more like scanning and searching. They probably have ‘something’ going on.”
On the recent airing of “Life Bar,” MC Tak Jae Hoon asked Girl’s Day if they secretly date. The girls honestly answered ”yes,” and explained that love is in the air at the annual event with idols.
Chilling at home
The home is probably the most comfortable and safest place to meet and hang out as a celebrity couple, as it allows them to have more privacy. Many sources have published photos of stars going in and out of their supposed beau’s apartment. This was the case for Zico and Seolhyun, who were reported to have secretly met each other in Zico’s house.
Before their breakup, it was reported that Zico and Seolhyun liked to hang out in the rapper’s home or go on car dates
Another case is the newly engaged idols, FTISLAND’s Minhwan and former LABOUM member Yulhee. Yulhee accidentally uploaded a photo of them together on her SNS, and netizens were quick to spot Minhwan’s action figure collections in the background. According to fans, the drummer had shared a photo of the exact same collection in his home via Instagram in the past.
A screengrab of Yulhee’s accidental post which showed her and Minhwan relaxing at his home
Other stars have a different tactic. Some celebrities offer their homes as a “safe haven” for couples who want to meet. Lee Hyori said she helped younger celeb friends go on dates. This is probably impossible to do nowadays as the legendary diva has opened her house for her reality TV show, “Hyori’s Homestay.” She said, “I used to let my younger friends come over to my house and go out so they can spend time together.”
When Hani and Junsu first started dating, it was reported that they would often meet and just hang out in his manager’s house.
Check out their photo from Dispatch:
Late date nights
Avoiding crowds is easy when everyone’s probably gone home. Lee Sung Kyung and Nam Joo Hyuk picked this option as they often went out late after filming “Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok Joo.” Notorious for exposing couples, Dispatch published their photos, saying the two went out on late date nights. Nam Joo Hyuk was also seen bringing gifts to Lee Sung Kyung after his photo shoot in the United States. Later, Lee Sung Kyung was captured bringing the same paper bags that Joo Hyuk was holding, which contained NBA jerseys, matching hats, and some flowers. Sadly, this adorable pair ended up calling it quits, shattering fans’ hearts everywhere.
Another couple who goes out on late dates (but often with friends) is Jessica and entrepreneur Tyler Kwon, who are confirmed to be in a long-term relationship. Dispatch released a story about the couple, who went on a date in the wee hours of the morning where they were spotted at a bar in Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam with staff and friends.
Here are photos from Dispatch’s story:
A quiet spot outdoors
We’ve all heard about car dates and parking lot meet-ups, but some stars seem to think that these places are too constrictive and choose to meet in a wide space with a beautiful view instead. Girl’s Day’s Hyeri and actor Ryu Jun Yeol may not have had a happy ending in the drama “Reply 1988,” but after the drama ended, they were caught having a quiet moment on a bench in front of a river. Their agencies has confirmed that their relationship progressed from friendship to dating.
Just like the couple above, former T-ara member Han Areum and rookie actor Lee Seung Jae confirmed their relationship with photos posted on Instagram showing them on a view deck overseeing the city lights.
Going out in the open
Sometimes, the best way for couples to avoid being the talk of the town is to just go out in the open. Many Korean celebrity couples are now being fearless by officially admitting their relationship and just enjoying their dates without worrying about being seen or photographed. Besides, only two things can happen when celebrities brave the crowd: either people will scramble towards them or leave them alone.
Back when they were dating, FTISLAND’s leader Choi Jong Hun and rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon Jae had a fun date at an amusement park in Japan. Instead of covering up, which can make things look all the more obvious, they went out in the open and blended in effortlessly with the crowd.
Jong Hun and Son Yeon Jae’s fun date in Tokyo
One couple that’s not afraid to be seen out and about in public is Girl’s Generation’s Sooyoung and actor Jung Kyung Ho. The two have been in a long-term relationship for five years. They were recently captured holding hands freely while walking on the streets and doing some shopping.
Jung Kyung Ho’s agency confirmed the good status of his relationship with Sooyoung, “The two are doing well. They have busy schedules but still enjoy dates now and then.”
Hey Soompiers! Which real life K-celebrity dating style surprised you the most? Tell us in the comments below!
DP_Kim is an English magazine and online writer and former stylist based in South Korea. Follow her Korean adventures at instagram.com/dianne_panda.