How far would you go to meet the love of your life? For some of us, a 30-minute drive can even seem like a stretch.
Yet, women seem to be travelling across the globe to one certain destination, in hopes to find love, simply by what they've seen in the movies.
If you aren't familiar with the "Korean Wave", the phrase describes the surge in popularity of South Korean cultural products in Western countries. Also dubbed "Hallyu", it covers traditional foods, elaborate skincare routines, music such as K-Pop and films like K-dramas.
The latter is a sub-genre of film identifiable by its highly emotional plots and use of well-groomed and emotionally sensitive characters.
Previously a fringe genre, K-dramas have ridden the Korean Wave and are both hosted and produced by streaming services like Disney+ and Netflix. If you've watched the supremely popular 'Squid Games', you've watched a K-drama.
However, the emergence of this new genre hasn't just provided a different style of entertainment. According to one expert, it's served as inspiration for single women to travel to South Korea in search of their other half.
While writing a dissertation on the racial, gender and sexual politics of K-dramas for a doctorate in gender studies, University of California student Min Joo Lee noticed something.
These films were driving many women around the world to visit South Korea and experience the culture for themselves.
After travelling to Seoul to interview these women in 2017 and 2018, Lee realised it wasn't the food, music or locations featured in K-dramas that inspired their travel. It was the men.
As more tourists ride the Korean Wave to South Korea, searching for the restaurants, music performances and locations from K-Dramas, locals have taken to calling them 'Hallyu tourists'. Within this, as Lee would discover, was a smaller group of heterosexual women in their early to mid-20s. They came from Western Europe, Russia and North America yet all visited for the same reason: to find love.
In 2017 and 2018, Lee travelled to Seoul and stayed in accommodation popularly frequented by Hallyu tourists. According to Lee, it was simple to spot those looking for love. While regular tourists woke up early and explored the city, this nocturnal group would spend the day sleeping and watching K-Dramas before dressing up and hitting the clubs all night.
"They had one primary goal: to meet a Korean man," wrote Lee.
Fulfilling a fantasy
Why travel around the globe just to meet a man in a nightclub? For some, it was the prospect of fulfilling a fantasy. One German tourist told Lee that meeting a Korean man makes her feel like she's "living in [her] own Korean television drama."
As for the language barrier, some were fluent in Korean and others communicated through a mix of English and Korean. Many even claimed to have learnt the language simply by consuming hours of Korean television and music.
Seeking a gentle man
A second incentive amongst the women was the softer vision of masculinity often modelled by male protagonists in K-dramas. While women described men back home as hypermasculine and stoic, they said their perfect Korean man as "gentle", "romantic" or a "knight in shining armour". In other words, a typical K-drama character.
One Swedish woman told Lee she felt safe around Korean men, while men back home were sexually aggressive. "They grope me and try to have sex all the time. I do not like that."
Unlike a stoic James Bond or muscular superhero, K-drama men tend to be attentive, sensitive and comfortable expressing their feelings. They're also enviably fashionable; willing to wear accessories most Western men are still cautious of, like scarves and bags.
Some tourists did get their fairytale ending, according to Lee, finding and marrying their partner in South Korea. Photos and stories of these victories were often shared amongst tourists as tokens of hope.
Unfortunately, they seemed to be rare.
Those who did find a man often felt the connection fade soon after they returned home. One Spanish woman told Lee she found a Korean boyfriend but it became too difficult once she went back to Spain.
Most, according to Lee, left South Korea disappointed after learning the tough lesson that, like Hollywood, men aren't like in the movies.
Nonetheless, love (or obsession), is a powerful thing. Despite the disillusionment, many women told Lee they were still set to fall for a Korean man. That trip was just unlucky.
Love under the influence
These K-drama fans aren't the first to be wooed by a romantic vision that translates into real-life action.
And with social media, it certainly won't be the last time, as we get access to an increasing number of rose-tinted windows into new places.