November 21, 2023 12:24
The Korean Buddhist Foundation for Social Welfare invited young singles for a two-day temple stay at Jogye Temple in Seoul where they could meet a potential girlfriend or boyfriend last Saturday and met with an enthusiastic response.
"We received more than 1,600 calls from people asking about the program and applying and registrations were filled in just two days," a foundation staffer said. "Ten men and women were chosen."
Participants were between 28 and 37 and came from all walks of life, from public servants to police, computer programmers and teachers. Many were non-Buddhists.
The retreat took the form of a dating game.
Won Jong-hoon, a 32-year-old participant, said, "I took the KTX and came all the way here from Osong, North Chungcheong Province 100 km away to find my love at the temple stay program. I hesitated at first because it's quite far but finally decided to apply because I want to meet someone I can relate to."
One 28-year-old female participant said, "It's been difficult for me to meet someone because I've just been going to work and back home every day since my early 20s. I always wanted to meet a promising partner, but didn't have the chance."
The temple meet was the brainchild of the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which is spearheading efforts to boost Korea's birthrate. A staffer at the foundation said, "We incorporated temple stays that heal the mind in a quiet environment to promote healthy relationships and encourage marriage among unmarried men and women."
Participants listened to a lecture on Korea's low birthrate and also took part in a Buddhist experience, making a wish in front of a pagoda and having tea with a monk.
Some of the participants were atheists but drawn to Buddhism.
A 34-year-old male participant said, "This is the first time that I took part in a temple stay and I will recommend it to others because I was able to find peace of mind and meet interesting people."
Jogye Temple officials said they plan to offer more dating stays in the future.
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