5. 2023, The Wild Wild West


I didn’t know what to expect from my handsome gym stranger. Would he text?

He did, about thirty minutes after I got home.

I looked at his profile, a photo of him on stage, and his background, a photo of him and his family, and promptly burst into tears. Deep down I had expected him to be another catfish, or another weirdo, or another narcissistic playboy looking to “experience” a foreign woman, and the unexpected relief made me cry.

Dating in Korea has done a number on me.

We texted back and forth and I learned that he was a musical theater actor. He lived with his family and had traveled internationally. We had seen some of the same plays and had a mutual interest in health, though he was focused on playing soccer and doing upper body only to keep lean. He said when we made eye contact at the gym he had though I was really pretty and rushed out without a thought.

Maybe this is my Korean love story, I thought in delusion. Maybe I had to suffer through the scariest and most traumatizing dating experiences of my life in Korea to find this one good one.

I cut off the chat after a few hours so that I could video call my mom and promised to contact him later.

Perhaps he took that promise too literally, because I didn’t hear from him the next day.

I found it concerning; in Korean dating culture, you’re supposed to text every day. The lack of contact made me confused so I reached out to a few friends for advice. They recommended just texting him first, musical actors have an irregular schedule after all.

I texted him on Monday and we continued to chat.

But the contact started to taper off. He would take hours to respond, and then even days.

I started to feel disappointed, but also confused. This man ran through traffic to ask for my number with shaking hands, and yet he had no plans to actually ever meet again in person?

I chalked it up to disinterest and went on with my life, feeling somewhat deflated by the fleeting promise of romance.

Until Friday. I received a message from him asking if we could meet for coffee when I’m free. Finally! I told him I was available the following Wednesday or Thursday, to which he responded “great!” and nothing else.

At this point I gave up any notion of romance but held on for my curiosity. What exactly was his end game? Once again, why did he so bravely and valiantly ask for my contact info only to keep me on an IV drip? Did he have ADHD? Did he just like expanding his contact list?

The truth started to peep through on Saturday night. It was 11pm and suddenly he was able to respond at lightning speed. He had just gotten back from soccer practice and was watching a soccer game on TV and oh could I send him a photo of me.

All my hackles were raised, but I put on my detective cap and played the game.

“What kind of pictures? You can already see my profile picture.”

“A pretty picture of you.”


“If you want to see me, you have to meet me in person.” I declared.

“Aww, but I really want to see you now,” he whined. Maybe this would have worked had we literally ever met. As it was, it just came off as bizarre. Later when recounting this story to my mother, she would ask if he was drunk or otherwise under the influence.

At this point it was midnight and I had already had a disappointing Halloween outing. It was time to cut the bullshit and get all my disenchantments done in one go.

“Why did you ask for my phone number? To date? To be friends? To seek a thrill?”

“I don’t know. Not all. Maybe?”

I scoffed but pushed it to the end to confirm my suspicions.

He told me that he wasn’t sure we could communicate, which I found rude considering we had been talking in Korean all week. He said he had some foreign friends but they had all been raised in Korea and essentially were nowhere near as foreign as me. I felt annoyed at the implication that I was so hard to understand. He said he had to be just as careful as me, a foreign woman in Korea, when dating because he might be famous one day. If he had been in front of me I would have done a spit take straight in his face. You, a Korean man, have to be as careful as me, a foreign woman? Not only was he arrogant, he was also stupid.

I responded blandly, unwilling to put energy in, when he abruptly said, “if I came over to your house right now, would you come outside?”

I stared at my phone, absolutely flabbergasted.

This man had dragged me along all week, never making plans to meet in person, and now wanted to come to a stranger’s house in the middle of the night? He had never been to my house. He didn’t even know what neighborhood I lived in. He had never once sent a sext, or an even vaguely flirty message, and now he wanted to hook up?

A swell of emotions overtook me: rage, disgust, violation, resignation, disappointment, disbelief. Of course I was just another foreign woman to “experience”. Of course he simultaneously looked down on me while wanting to sleep with me. Of course his sincerity was all for show. Of course I was just a fetish.

And then I was offended. Did he think by calling me pretty once I would be seduced? What a joke. And while being worried about his non-existent reputation, he was also willing to come to an unknown woman’s house?

I thought about saying yes, and then robbing him to prove a point.

I told him, “I’m not that kind of person.”

“What kind of person???” He said. I read this and wanted to punch him.

“The kind of person who meets people in the middle of the night.” I typed out, hands shaking in anger.

“Ah well, I just really wanted to see you. We might both be busy next Wednesday so I thought we could just meet tonight.”

There’s not a word strong enough to describe my disgust.

Of course he was never serious about this. Why couldn’t he have just been a sleazebag from the beginning? It would have saved us both a lot of time.

But beyond the rage was just abject confusion. Why had he started with such a seemingly sincere grand gesture? Was he just… pretending to be nervous? Was I just a side character for his delusions of grandeur?

I blocked him and changed my gym schedule. I shook with rage for a day and then felt completely decimated by impossible Korean dating culture where I am never, ever a woman but just a “foreigner” to be disrespected.

When you watch interviews with Korean men, they often say they will date a foreign woman but not marry her. The overarching theme is, “I’m willing to waste her time”. Comments will say, but there are bad men in every country! To which I say, not like this. Not when you’re a foreign woman. My foreign female friends and I have had the exact experiences, almost down to the letter.

This is not the first, or second, or third, or even fourth time I’ve had this experience. I’ve been followed, fetishized, asked to work as an escort, ghosted more than a dozen times, objectified, catfished, disrespected. The negative experiences far outweigh the positive ones, although I am so much more grateful for the few good men I have met.

Dating in Korea is its own type of hell; I am ignored or avoided until the moment someone wants to try sleeping with a white woman. Korean dating culture remains a disturbing mystery to me, and I have decided to exit its market for good.

It turns out when I asked myself, am I willing to risk one more traumatizing experience? The universe said yes.

And for a guy who doesn’t even do leg day.

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