[Q&A] Do Korean men like older women?

Why do Korean guys like noonas? Or do they maybe prefer to be oppas? Are large age differences between a couple judged in Korean culture?

Anonymous asked:

First of all I wanted to thank you for the great site and the time you take for answering our questions. I have a general question. Do Koreans prefer older or younger women? Until now I read several times that many would not mind to date an older, more mature woman. I’ve even encountered couples with up to 10 (+) years age difference (usually the man was older). You should know that in m country (also in my family) women with older men are quickly “stamped”. Thank you in advance!
Greetings from Germany :)

Korean man like older women noonas nunas

You are very welcome. We love answering your questions so keep them coming.

Korea is similar to most other countries. Bigger age difference (maybe more than 15 or 20 years) is frowned upon and the motives for such relationship are questioned. However, smaller age difference is readily accepted. Kimchi Man says his Korean friend (ok, all his friends are Korean) is dating a woman who is 5 year older and calls her, as is usual in Korea, noona. Until he read this question he never even though about it, and his other friends have never mentioned it either. It is normal and usual for them.

As everywhere else, it is more common for the man to be older, and you may have heard many Korean men enjoy being called oppa, which would be impossible if the woman was older. However, in the last few years Korea has been swept by “liking older women” syndrome, and oppas got replaced by noonas (also: nuna). The culprit for this, according to Wikipedia, is a singer and actor Lee Seung Gi (Korean: 이승기) and his song Because You’re My Woman.

Lee Seung Gi – Because You’re My Woman

Then there is also SHINee with their song Replay (Korean: 누난 너무 예뻐, lit. Noona You’re So Pretty)

Kimchi Man thinks the culprit is not K-pop, but rather different social dynamics, like the fact that for many guys dating older Korean woman is much more financially comfortable.

– Oegukeen

Edit (18th of October 2012): 15% of Korean brides are older than their grooms.


Are you a noona (also spelled nuna) or do you have an oppa? What are your experiences about age differences in Korean dating culture?



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33 thoughts on “[Q&A] Do Korean men like older women?

  1. It’s becoming more common among Korean men here in SK to have a relationship or marry an older Korean woman. Some of my husband’s friends’ wives are a year or two years older. As long as the age gap is not that BIG, it’s not a great deal here; however, if the age gap is more than five years, couples who are in that relationship hide their age difference from family and friends. In short, they lie about the woman’s real age. I know a couple who does.

  2. Pingback: [Q&A] Am I in a relationship with this Korean man? « Loving Korean

  3. My husband is a year younger than me. My mother-in-law said it was a trend for younger men to marry older women. Ha.

    • I’m sorry, I don’t understand your question.
      If you are asking what would Korean men think about 10 year difference, that is already answered in the post above.

  4. Would you explain what you mean by the “motives” of a relationship where there is an age difference upwards of 15 years? I’m an African American woman with a HUGE crush on a South Korean man 21 years my junior (he’s unaware). I’ve never been in this position before, feeling like this. I’m confident that our differences in race, culture, language can be successfully addressed but is the difference in age insurmountable? Do I need to find a way to let go of my hope and dreams?

    • People tend to question the motives of two people in a relationship where age difference is substantial. Is it because of money? Is it some fetish? Etc.

      It is not unheard of in Korea to have such age difference, but it is very rare. Of course, it matters a lot how old he is.

  5. My mother (19) married my dad (43), both are Korean and in Korea this is very rare. I guess she was embarrassed when younger but now she older, mature and thick skinned and does not care what others say. They are happily married now for more that 35 years.

    • That is such an inspiring story. Thank you for letting us know.

      When we are young we let other people’s opinions affect us too much. Your mother showed a good example of how to find happiness. :)

    • It would seem that love conquers all! While it’s a long shot that my crush will ever materialize to anything more, your parents’ story is encouraging and gives me hope.

  6. I just meet a korean guy aged 24 during my short trip to korea. He is a staff at a friend’s resort. He is very shy and attractive. I don’t know if he is being polite to be so nice to me. Now I’m back in hometown, I just can’t forget about him. I wanted to ask my friend his contact but I worry that he doesn’t feel the same. I’m 7 yrs older than him. Shd I ask his contact or just forget abt him?

    • Well, modern technology makes it very easy to contact someone and very easy to refuse the contact. Go for it, but if you see he’s not interested let it be.

  7. So I really need some sort of clarification *^^* I work as a taekwondo Instructor in america and I teach little kids. We are CONTINUALLY having new masters all the time that come “fresh off the boat” From Korea. I am younger than all of them but every time my school gets a new master they latch onto me like I am metal and they are a magnet. Sometimes they do things that I question if it is cultural or intentional i guess…Flirting? Each master has been 24 and I am 17. The current master I have is SO informal with me. which I thought was unusual because my past masters have been very formal. He will find every excuse to talk to me. Maybe because hes trying to learn english but he does it at the most inappropriate times. ex. like during class when my head master is teaching he will just talk to me. He also laughs hysterically at like everything I do. also what I noticed is he touches me. Like on the shoulder or lower back. Is this all normal? it’s so confusing for me because we are colleges but he treats me like we are best friends and we’ve known eachother for years. We met like a week ago and this behavior compared to my past masters is unusual. I have been trying to learn korean so when I speak the very little I know, he gets all happy and excited and impressed (which I guess isn’t that strange) Also he’s called me beautiful several times and that I “look like a princess” it’s very confusing for me because I have no idea if he is just being super friendly or if there is something else going on. Please help me if you can *^^*

    • If he is disturbing the class I think that’s up to head master to deal with.

      However, you are the only one in the world who decides whether you are uncomfortable with him being so physically close to you. Neither your nor his culture have any right to do so.

      Besides, you yourself noticed that this man is behaving differently than the other masters who came to your school from Korea and they all share the same culture, which I think proves once again that people are individuals and not slaves to their cultural background.

  8. He’s an online friend of mine. I’m 16 and he’s 25. I don’t think I like him yet. It’s too early to tell. He’s a little secretive, probably because we’re not that close yet. But he’s never tried to talk to me first. When we do talk, he always replies. Sometimes I don’t feel like initiating the conversation. Sometimes, I feel like I’m boring him but he told me I wasn’t, and that he was just busy. I’d be a first year high school student if I lived in Korea but I’m now a college student. Does that make a difference? Should I stop talking to him?

    • I have myself in one of the dumbest situations ever.

      I think I have fell in love with someone I don’t even know or met, to be more specific, a South Korean celebrity. I know, I’m the biggest loser ever… but I can’t do anything about it. So basically, I’m 4 years younger than her and I’m Chinese. I just want to know what you want to say about my situation.

      Again, I know this the stupidest thing in the world. But if you were me, what would you do? If you reply “Forget about her, you have no chance”, could you perhaps give me some tips on how to forget? Thanks in advance for any replies.

      • I don’t think you’re stupid nor a loser. I fell in love with my boyfriend while I barely knew him, and he was still on the other side of the world.

        You probably saw a lot of professional as well as personal stuff about this celebrity, and you constructed a whole person out of it, which you now have feelings for. That’s basically what celebrities are. If people didn’t care, they would be out of business very soon.

        But this also means that they are thousands (hundred of thousands?) of people who feel the same for her as you do, and who wish the same. So I think you know that meeting her, let alone having enough time with her to develop a relationship is very unlikely. Very very very unlikely.

        My advice would be to try and enjoy the lovely pain you have right now. It’s a bitter-sweet feeling, and there is nothing wrong with that. You can’t decide to stop having feelings, and you can’t really do anything to get closer to her (and probably shouldn’t). Just enjoy this perfect being that you have constructed in your mind while it lasts.

  9. I would say technically I have an oppa just because my boyfriend is a little over a year older than me. However, I don’t think we fall into the traditional roles where he is always taking care of me and paying for everything so I don’t think finance plays any part in our relationship. So the whole idea of either being an oppa or having a noona didn’t really play into his preference.

  10. If a woman is dating a man younger than her, and one and/or the other is Korean, how does she address him? Can she call him oppa or would it have to be dongsaeng or is there another form of address used? Furthermore, say I really liked a Kpop star and I met him at an autograph signing or a Kcon and he is a few years younger than me, how should I address him?

    • A younger man is never oppa.

      Think of the meaning of the word oppa in Korean. If you come to him and say: “Hello oppa!” you are saying “Hello male-person-who-is-older-than-me-and-whom-I-am-very-close-with.”

      That being said, you can call him “pink elephant” if that makes you two happy, and the same goes for oppa.

      Dongsaeng is correct, but much more rarely used than oppa, noona, hyung and eonni. The most common thing to do in this situation is just the first name + ya/a, or something like darling, etc. If they don’t care about being polite with each other “Ya!” is also an option.

      With male celebrities, while it’s true that many Korean girls call them oppa to feel closer to them, the more important aspect of the relationship, rather than being younger, is that they are strangers and should be addressed as such. At the very least: last name + first name + ssi.

      That all is if you two are speaking in Korean. If you are speaking in English just call him as you would any non-Korean person.

  11. My girlfriend (Korean) and I (Chinese-American) been together for 8 months. She is 8 years older than me. I don’t really care what people think as long as we are happy. We met while we were in the states together during her business trip. I visited her last January in Seoul, and I had the best romantic moments with her as if the whole world is on the palm of my hand. The fact that matter is…we love each other, and I really love my noona. She is everything to me. I’m planning to visit her again during the summer in Seoul. This feeling that we have for each other is indescribable and incomprehensible.

  12. I have this guy that I like who is about 12 years older than me, and my friends kept on asking me to ask him how old he is so i did and knowing his age made me wonder because he is at a marrying age now and i just entered the adulthood. I am worried if we really did get into a relationship will other people say bad things about him? or will it be seen wrongly in south korea?

  13. in Malaysia there are also many younger men fall for older women, but maybe not that popular to be a syndrom..we also address older women as “kakak” or “kak” and for older men as “abang”. but if you are dating older women it is a big NO to address your girlfriend “kak”..unlike korean they still call their older gf “noona”..and Malaysian woman really don’t like to be called “kakak” except if you’ve accepted that you are old now hehe..once again contrary to korean women who seems to be pleased to be called noona.

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