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Yue Qian does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Recent reports about a sex recession among young Americans aside, the concept of dating and mating is reasonably engrained in daily life in the West. In sharp contrast, in South Korea, 40 per cent of people in their 20s and 30s appear to have quit dating altogether.

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On their first mandatory dating "mission" last semester — lunch in the university cafeteria — year-old Geun il Lee missed his classmate's als. He thought little of the fact that Po Kyung Kangalso 24, ordered another coffee to prolong their date, even though she mentioned she was late for her part-time job.

He was nonchalant when she proposed they meet again — next time, off campus — to watch a two-and-a-half-hour historical epic about the second Manchu invasion of Korea.

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He was too anxiety-ridden about an upcoming job interview to notice his lab partner was courting him. Lee figured their random pairing and compulsory lunch date was merely another academic obligation before he s the workforce. In fact, it was part of a course at Dongguk University in Seoul.

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It might explain why Lee saw his promising get-together with Kang as little more than an asment. Something did come of it. Lee and Kang are sharing their first Valentine's Day as a couple — another match made in professor Jae Sook Jang's love, sex and healthy relationships course, which requires students to date each other in three randomly ased pairings, over separate dating "missions. If that sounds forced, so be it, said professor Jang, who devised the curriculum 10 years ago amid concerns about plummeting marriage and birth rates in South Korea.

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There are lots of people against dating and against relationships these days in Korea," Jang said. The desire to create love connections between classmates is perhaps understandable in baby-bereft South Korea.

The new economics of singledom is breeding despair among a so-called "Sampo Generation," or "triple abandonment" cohort — people in their 20s and 30s who are too worried about financial security to pursue marriage, home ownership or parenthood. Birth rates here have plunged, and are among the world's lowest.

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Soaring housing prices, high tuition, a weak pensions system and high child-care costs are being blamed for why fewer people are having. Broadly speaking, marriage in socially conservative South Korea is a precursor to child-bearing. As such, dating is viewed as a step toward tying the knot.

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It's an independent thing. Students enter college consumed by anxieties about career prospects, Jang said, but don't often parcel out as much time anymore to date. The professor is encouraged by her class's popularity.

More than people register every term.

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Only 60 spots open on a first-come, first-served basis. Nearby, Lee and Kang bantered playfully about having recently celebrated their "baek-il," or day anniversary.

Even if she does marry someone, friends dismiss her aspirational nuclear family as improbable. Good luck with that. Jang's class emphasizes healthy relationships, not necessarily family or fertility.

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A large component is promoting romantic relationships as worthwhile, and combating perceptions that dating is expensive or emotionally toxic. A study released by the Korean Institute of Criminology found that nearly 80 per cent of the 2, South Korean male respondents were found to have exhibited physically or psychologically abusive behaviours to their dating partners.

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Jang said her lectures about warning- behaviours — snooping a partner's text messages, imposing curfews, dictating what someone should wear — are illuminating for many of her pupils. Professor Jang relishes her dual role as lecturer and matchmaker. Two couples who met in her class have gone on to wed, and she officiated one ceremony. Jang assumes children will be on the way. The professor wanted to dispel the myth that students who end up dating score better grades. In fact, Kang and Lee earned a B-plus and a C-plus, respectively.

The professor's star pupil, Jang, got an A-plus, and is single.

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In this south korean university course, dating isn't just for fun — it's compulsory

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She was interested. He was CBC in South Korea.

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Jang said her professor has brightened her outlook on romantic relationships and possibly motherhood. Most of her girlfriends don't want to have kids, reasoning it would be too difficult to balance family with work pressures. But she would consider trying to have children "if the economic conditions were right.

Matt Kwong Reporter.

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