Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Committee Member

William Jankowiak

Second Committee Member

Jiemin Bao

Third Committee Member

Pierre Lienard

Fourth Committee Member

Kathryn H. Korgan

Number of Pages



Romantic love holds a central place in South Korean imaginaries, animating television dramas and pop ballads, but has been largely overlooked in Korea's ethnographic record. Drawing on data collected through 18 months of ethnographic fieldwork, survey research, interviews, and analysis of folklore, the present study investigates how South Koreans conceptualize romantic love, how those conceptions have changed over time, and the ways they are transforming with the Korean field of gender relations.

This study documents love's entwinement with marriage in South Korea. Koreans are developing companionate ideals of marriage that shift the focus of kinship from the parent-child relationship to the conjugal relationship. As part of this shift, romantic love has become a marital prerequisite and measure of marital satisfaction. Through ethnographic, linguistic, and demographic analysis, the present study examines how these shifts in marriage ideology shape and are shaped by women's improved access to capital, the nuclearization of the family, and urbanization. Through intra-cultural comparisons of South Koreans' conceptions of romantic love, the present study examines gendered frictions that arise from reconciling the practical realities of marriage with romantic ideals of love. Young women's trepidation over expectations that they make major sacrifices for love, and men's discomfort with the implications of love's material necessities, are critically explored, highlighting common underlying cultural logics of love and how gender shapes the field of romantic relationships. These findings reveal processes contributing to the individualization of love in South Korea and their potential consequences for the nation's record low fertility and marriage rates.


Ethnography; Gender; Intimacy; Korea; Love; Marriage


Asian Studies | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Gender and Sexuality | Social and Cultural Anthropology

File Format


File Size

1.4 MB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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