WALKING out of Myeongdong Cathedral, I couldn't help but think that if it was a date I was on, it was one of which my mother would heartily approve. Not too many girls in Ireland suggest a visit to a church these days. But then not many Irish girls are like Korean girls. K-ladies are far too perplexing, infuriating, petulant, warm and endearing -- and often all at once -- for that.
Her name is Pom. I'm not likely to see her again -- not, for the record, entirely down to my choosing. But what's interesting about her is that she is unlike the majority of young women I've met here. The dominant opinion among young women here -- at least those I've met -- runs something like this: "women have to make all the sacrifices in marriage; I'm not getting married, or if I do it will be to a foreigner".
Pom, on the other hand, can't wait to get married. She gets misty-eyed at the thought of her big day. She's only 21 now, but reckons she'll be hitched by the time she's 24. That's her plan anyway. She's dead set on it.
That night the universe was clearly conspiring against me. Already Pom had made me silently question my shallowness and cynicism. Just for how long was superficiality and flippancy when it came to women going to cut it?
Someone in the stars was determined to hammer the point home. As we walked down the slope from the cathedral, a man was proposing to his girlfriend at the bottom -- right there on the street with a microphone. Beside the presumably happy couple (see, I can't help myself) was a truck with a huge video screen. On it read his proposal. They kissed and a small circle of friends and family clapped and cheered.
Romance is big in Korea. You'll see more girls walking about with bouquets of flowers than you ever would in Ireland. At the top of Namsan, a mountain poking right out of the city, thousands of locks inscribed with messages from young couples adorn the railings by the peak's edge like barnacles.
And then there are the strange expressions of devotion that perplex every foreign visitor. As you pass clothes shops, you notice "his" and "hers" matching sets of underwear. Some couples take this bizarre, clone-of-my-other-half concept further and wear matching hoodies, shoes or t-shirts. Cute or creepy, you decide.
But you know, watching this rather young-looking couple express such a profound commitment I was touched. Really I was. Genuinely. There needs to be some optimism and loyalty in the world, even if it happens to sometimes be naive. Good luck to them. I wish them the best. In a sense, I even envied them.
But as I walked the streets of Myeong-dong with Pom, I got my answer about whether I could be ready for something a little more "real" myself. To the left, a beautiful woman was sauntering down the street. To the right, another. And another and another. How I wanted to follow.
I wasn't one of those guys with a truck and a flashing screen. Not yet.
This was clarity.