There are a couple new things this season on We Got Married, the new village where all the couples live and what the MCs refer to as a “truly new couple,” Julien Kang and Yoon Se-ah. As far as the village goes, it is an attempt to create more variety by having interactions between couples happen more naturally. As for the new couple, Julien Kang, a half-Korean, half-French, Canadian born actor and model, makes his debut on We Got Married as one of the few foreigners to ever participate on the show, and certainly the most Westernized in looks.
As a foreigner, Julien faces different challenges than your typical We Got Married participants, namely cultural differences and language barriers that other husbands don’t even have to think about. When looking at all the couple’s personalities, it is easier to see differences and similarities when there is a foreigner’s behavior to compare it to.
By the end of the first episode with the first new couple, Julien and actress Yoon Se-ah, the MCs are already commenting on how the couple seems like they have been together for months and accepting Julien’s ease with talking about past relationships and being with older women as a trait of his foreignness. As far as matching someone to a foreigner, it doesn’t seem that they could have made a better choice. She is older than him, granting her more maturity, and she is blood type B, giving her a strong personality. Both of these things seem to benefit her when trying to deal with Julien’s comfort with skinship and his cultural faux pas. I have a hard time imagining a younger K-pop star, for example, not getting overwhelmed by the sheer foreignness of living with Julien. If they didn’t get flustered by him talking in three different languages they would certainly get a nose bleed from his shirtless behavior. However, he has been living in Korea from a number of years, and has obviously come to understand a lot of Korean social interactions. In the second episode while on their first date, he purposefully talks down to her, as an oppa would, in order to lead the atmosphere and make her feel more comfortable. This alone gives great hope for the relationship because it shows that he can meet her half-way between the cultures and not just let his Western nature overwhelm them.
Compared to the first couple and their mature, yet casual, approach to marriage, the second couple, composed of Kwanghee from ZE:A and Sunhwa from Secret are the straight-up variety couple. And while this couple is hilarious, and they will probably increase the ratings for the show a large amount, I can’t help but feel that they are insincere. They don’t face any cultural differences like the first couple and yet they still bicker and clash all the time. This is amusing to watch, but it could also start getting irritating as the show goes on.
In the first episode, Kwanghee decides to prank his new wife instead of meeting sincerely and that seems to have set the tone for the entire relationship. She brings up ZE:A’s Siwan, they bicker, and then move on, to only bicker about something else in the next minute. They have had some sweet moments, like when she cooked him a large Korean dinner. This is the kind of thing we will miss out on with the first couple, the shared cultural understanding of the importance of having seaweed soup made especially for you by your wife. I can only speak from my experience here in the US, but home cooked meals have become greatly undervalued in modern times. It is the sincere moments of wanting to please each other that keep me interested in this couple, not so much the moments when Kwanghee whines.
The third couple is comprised of Lee Joon from MBLAQ and My Husband Got a Family actress Oh Yeon-seo. This couple’s unique trait is that they are each other’s ideal type. This is the kind of couple I think of when I think We Got Married. They are obviously infatuated with getting to know each other and this creates a sweet, romantic awkwardness. They are both comfortable and uncomfortable with each other. While that may sound like a contradiction, but when you watch them interact it makes sense.
They will have moments when they can barely look at each other because they are so shy and then a few minutes later they will be happily bonding over how much they love being obsessive about their partners. This is they dynamic that defined their first meeting and it has continued as the show has gone on. Their relationship is one that would be very difficult to create with a Western husband because, as seen in the show, Julien has natural skinhship tendencies and an open demeanor that doesn’t match up with Lee Joon’s behavior at all. Hopefully they will get more comfortable with each other as time goes on, but I can’t see them ever having the instinctive skinship we see with our Western Julien.
To compare, let’s look at a couple instances of the couple’s behavior in similar situations. First, the much anticipated bedroom viewing by each couple in their new home. The couples could not have reacted more differently. Kwanghee and Sunwha proved their status as variety couple by making the experience into a casual joke. Kwanghee playfully untied his shirt and gave Sunwha a suggestive look, and what did she do? She started jumping on the bed. And then he joined her. Lee Joon and Oh Yeon-seo, not surprisingly, reacted with lots of awkwardness. The special thing about their reaction was that the awkwardness didn’t come from not connecting, but rather connecting very sincerely. The sexual tension between those two is so thick you could cut it with a knife. On the other hand, when Julien and Yoon Se-ah saw their bedroom, he casually had his arm around her shoulder and they simply commented on how nice it was. Why the lack of reaction? Probably because a grown man from Canada doesn’t see sleeping next to the woman he is supposedly married to as a big deal. Co-habituating before marriage is more common in Western culture which lessens the reaction when faced with a room with a bed. When compared to the other couples, you simply have to attribute the difference to cultural upbringing. But what reaction would audiences rather see? I tend to think the more dramatic would get better ratings.
A second example of similar couple situations was playing in the pool. On their second meeting, Julien and Yoon Se-ah move into their house and promptly went for a swim in their pool. He picked her up and physically horsed around a lot. Now, when I watch this, I see a normal Western guy being playful with his lady-friend in a pool but the way it is seen in Korean culture is quite different. Yoon Se-ah was surprised and said in her interview section that it is so different from Korean men who are shy about touching and skinship. Equally strange for Korean TV culture, Julien was casually showing his shirtless self. Compared to the swimming adventure of Lee Joon and Oh Yeon-seo, the first couple’s pool time may as well be considered scandalous. Lee Joon wore a tank top into the pool and when it got wet his wife was scandalized by the fact that she could see the contours of his muscles. Scandalized, but pleased. And as far as skinship goes, although she would have liked playful romance a la Julien, Lee Joon was simply too shy for that. When he picked her up to put her on the pool ledge, although it was sweet, it came across as awkward instead of romantic.
Overall, I am enjoying Season 4 of We Got Married so far, and look forward to the continued journey of these couples. I can’t help but wonder what exciting challenges will face Julien but I’m sure he will handle them well, just as he did with teaching English, cooking Korean candy, and dancing Gangnam Style. Personally, I can’t wait for more awkward romance from Lee Joon and Oh Yeon-seo. How about you, Seoulmates? Who is your favorite couple? How do you feel about a foreigner as a husband on this show?