Roses are red, violets are blue. The season of love is here, and the coronavirus is too.
“I was supposed to get married on White Day but I delayed it to this fall due to the coronavirus,” a bride-to-be commented on Naver blog Make My Wedding, a popular online community with more than 38,997 members who are preparing for weddings.
In Korea, White Day, which falls on March 14, sees men giving candy to women. On Valentine’s Day, women typically give chocolate to men.
“I asked my wedding planner about postponing our wedding. The problem is the penalty fees that I have to pay for breaching the original contract,” another bride-to-be commented on the blog.
According to the Fair Trade Commission, during the period Jan. 20 to March 8, a total of 14,988 complaints related to cancellation charges were reported to the government’s 1372 call center. Among those complaints, 1,622 cases were related to a wedding company and mainly had to do with the spread of the virus.
The Korea Wedding Service Association agreed with the concerns that the FTC expressed about the growing complaints and recommended its member companies waive cancellation charges for clients who originally signed a contract to hold a wedding in March and April.
“This association, however, cannot force its members to waive the charges. So the cancellation charges can still differ depending on the wedding company,” FTC official Song Sang-min said in a press briefing Tuesday.
Many couples are also experiencing difficulties with their scheduled honeymoons.
“I received a message from Asiana Airlines that they are not operating the flight to Barcelona due to the spread of coronavirus. This ruined my honeymoon plan,” a bride-to-be who gave only her surname, Cho, told The Korea Herald.
As of Wednesday, 114 countries and territories had imposed entry restrictions or tougher quarantine procedures for people arriving from South Korea over coronavirus concerns.
Couples who are planning to walk down the aisle after April are worried as well.
“I haven’t decided whether to delay our mid-May wedding. I am especially worried because we are holding it in Daegu,” a groom-to-be who gave only his surname, Jung, told The Korea Herald. “If I delay it to this fall I have to pay around 5 million won ($4,200) for breaching the contract. I will have to make my decision by the end of this month because the closer it gets to the wedding day, the more I have to pay for cancellation.”
Daegu, South Korea’s fourth-largest city with 2.5 million people, and the surrounding province have accounted for nearly 90 percent of all infections in Korea.
Jung also said he is currently unable to prepare for the wedding. “I still have to pick up my tuxedo and adjust a few things for the wedding, but I have to visit Daegu to do that. If I go there now I will have to be under self-quarantine for two weeks, which will affect my work,” Jung said.
The situation is not easy for those searching for a significant other either.
“I was supposed to meet this girl that I was matched with on an app this weekend, but I had to postpone our date due to the coronavirus. She said OK, but I never heard from her again,” a local dating app Sky People user commented on its platform. Over 100,000 people have downloaded the dating app, which has an online bulletin board where users can share their experiences dating through the app.
“I found a match on the app, but we had to cancel our date. The problem is that we cannot reschedule it because we don’t know when the virus situation will improve,” another user commented on Sky People.
The situation is no better for those searching for love in more traditional ways.
“We planned for a 3:3 group blind date when the new semester begins. But everyone was worried since people usually change seats, play games and share drinks during a group blind date. We had to cancel,” Han Jin-young, 23, told The Korea Herald.
Despite the difficulties in arranging to meet face-to-face, couples are undeterred in trying to express their love especially for the upcoming White Day on Saturday. In Korea, men give candy and treats like chocolate, cookies, cakes and gifts to women to mark White Day.
At local chocolatier Piaff, preorders for 15,000 boxes of White Day chocolates, at a price of 60,000 won each, sold out Sunday.
Addressing concerns about the novel coronavirus, the chocolate shop announced rules for the 15,000 customers on its social media account.
“We require customers to wear masks when coming in to pick up the chocolate,” the store operator said on its social media account Saturday. “When getting in line in the store, please make sure to keep at least 1-meter distance from others. We may also ask you to wait in front of the store.”
For some, the new coronavirus has also changed the way they buy gifts.
“I have never used a delivery service for gift and chocolates for my boyfriend. I prefer picking it out myself because I think it is more meaningful that way. But this time, I am buying the gift through a delivery service,” Park Ji-hong, 25, said.
According to Market Kurly, sales of desserts grouped under its promotion “Dreaming of a Sweet White Day” from March 6 is doing well. Market Kurly offers a wide range of groceries and merchandise for delivery by 7 a.m. the next day for orders placed before 11 p.m.
“During the first three days of our promotion, we saw our sales jump by 195 percent compared to the previous week. So far we are seeing sales growth in items like Choco Candy Mix and traditional La Mere Poulard cookies,” Market Kurly spokesperson Kim Soo-jin said.
By Song Seung-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)