Update : 2019.12.16  Mon  No : 507
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Cover Story
Dating App: A Love Messenger, but What Is Behind It?

There are various dating apps in Korea.
Using these apps can offer good oppor-tunities to associate with new people. Thanks to their charm, the number of users is gradually increasing.
However, there are also many problems that arise from dating apps. Due to this, consumers are not in the safe zone. The Argus looks into these problems in more detail and suggests solutions.

Typical dating apps in Korea

Here are some representative dating apps that are ranked in the top five in Google Play, in the first half of 2018.

Amanda means “I do not meet anyone.” All users need is to fill in their email  address, age, school, height and body size. In addition, three photos are to be uploaded and evaluated by 30 existing members. In order to be in, users need to get at least three out of five points. Users can select one of the two cards of the opposite sex every day, then send “Like” to the person they like. If both select “Like,” they are matched. In Amanda, there is cyber money called “Ribbon” to view others’ profiles or start a conversation.

Verifying the real name is essential. If customers register their ideal type, they will get two profiles at 12 p.m. every day. Users can see one of the two profiles free and send a message when clicking “Like.” If both express favor with each other, they can be matched and talk with him or her. To view the remaining profile, they need to use the cyber money called “Candy.”

In English, Simkoong means “the heart misses a beat.” After uploading the profile information such as email, blood type, religion and photos, users will be evaluated by the administrator within one to two days. Then, they introduce a suitable person for users. They can send a “Choice” signal, which is a kind of favor sign. If exchanging “Like” with each other, a chat room can be opened. In order to send “Like,” users need to first check the profile of their counterpart; cyber money called “Heart” is needed for this process.

Come March, freshmen come waddling into school, dreaming of the college life. Part of it is the romantic meeting of two, the desire of all: dating.
Thanks to technology, it has become easier to meet people in a virtual space. People meet strangers on the Internet, and it leads to meeting in reality. In this way, dating applications for meeting are very popular. However, as the use of dating apps increases, many problems incessantly arise. The Argus looks up problems and causes of dating apps and suggests solutions.

Problems that arise from using dating apps

Occurrence of various crimes

The number of cases in which criminals commit crimes by abusing dating apps is increasing. There are a lot of people who talk with strangers through the app and actually meet. Through this process, crimes such as sex crimes and blackmail often occur. In May 2015, the Korea Consumer Agency (KCA) reported that 23.8 percent of 500 users were damaged by “sexual contact.” In August 2018, a man tried to sexually assault a woman whom he met through a dating app and inflicted an injury on her and was sentenced to two years and six months of imprisonment.
Similarly, there are criminal cases such as obscene jokes or unwanted continuous contact. According to the KCA data, 24.4 percent of 500 users suffered various damages such as “repeatedly receiving unwanted contact.”
In addition, other crimes may induce participants to join pyramid schemes, manipulate one’s qualifications or commit fraud via the use of dating apps.

Reinforcement of lookism and credentialism

In most dating apps, people are ranked by appearance and academic background. In order to be matched with a person who is well-suited to oneself, a method is needed to indicate who he or she is. This process, however, often focuses on external factors rather than a person’s personality. In Amanda, new members are not allowed to use apps unless they meet the criteria of appearance through existing members’ evaluations. Another example is a game-based social dating app called “Bombling.” When people upload their profile photos, members determine their appearance rankings in real time. It was regarded as a fun factor within the app.
In a similar case, there are dating apps that limit their subscription based on educational background, residence, and economic status. A dating app, “Goldspoon,” is only available to men who live in the Gangnam 3 districts and have particular professions or earn more than 70 million won (US$62,111.80) per year. Meanwhile, only women who are professionals or work in large corporations are allowed to join. Additionally, a dating app “Sky People” is only available to men who attend major universities or have a particular profession, but it does not require any special preconditions for women to join.
As appearance is a significant part of first impressions, the external factor cannot be ignored. Also, their background is one other thing to consider. However, the more such apps are made, the more people will be likely to take these assessments for granted in society.

Excessive payment system in dating apps

Most of the dating apps in Korea are designed to attain a matching through payment. In order to know the information of the counterpart, it is required to pay for each one. For example, most functions that are crucial to matching, such as opening a chat room and viewing others’ profiles, are available for a fee. In some apps, users usually pay between 5,000 won (US$4.43) and 10,000 won (US$8.85) in order to apply for a conversation with someone users like. More expensive apps require about 25,000 won (US$22.13).
Also, “DangYeonSi” lets users know “People who checked my profile,” and “People who expressed interest in me.” To check this, a certain amount of “heart” is needed. Like this, dating apps induce payment naturally, but users are complaining about these payment services. According to “Social Dating Service Dissatisfaction Survey of 1022 Solo Men and Women” by Blindcamp, 37.7 percent of respondents answered “No response comes from the counterpart after the payment was made.”
A woman who actually used a dating app said “Users can get about 10 Hearts through an attendance check or SNS friend recommendation. However, we need to use more than 20 hearts to express interest in someone, and it takes more than 30 hearts to leave a message on their profile. 10 hearts are too few to use the service. Eventually, we almost always pay some amount. I think there are a lot of dating apps that only make profit, even though the outward appearance is plausible.”
An excessive payment system, which is considered essential for the matching process to proceed, is a leading cause of user discontent.

Reasons causing the problems

Insufficient self-certification procedure

Among the dating apps, there are a lot of apps in which the certification procedure is very simple and lax. This is likely to lead to a crime. Some apps manage the authentication process thoroughly. However, there are many apps that make it easy to fill in false information by making it possible to set up profiles by only email or a Facebook account. In fact, according to the KCA, 38.4 percent of users said that they had entered false conditions in one’s profile.
According to Ministry of Gender Equality and Family’s “2016 Survey on Sexual Prostitution,” 278 out of 317 apps classified as promoting prostitution did not require adult and self-certification. Such dating apps are being used as a means to commit a sexual crime. As such, the authentication process is insufficient, so it is possible to use the app with false information, so that the dating app itself became vulnerable to those wishing to carry out criminal acts.

Social atmosphere where people’s external conditions are given priority

The idea where we regard one’s conditions as the most important factor when meeting people has spread to some extent in our society. Particularly in Korea, there is a big difference in salary and promotion depending on academic background. Therefore, people are more interested in career or school rather than personality and taste.
Although it is said that people with individuality are attracting attention, there are still some standards of appearance in Korea. Because of the social atmosphere that portends to divide the beautiful and ugly things regarding the appearance of a person, there is a system that evaluates a person’s appearance and ranks it in dating apps.
Due to this social atmosphere, producers of dating apps have created apps that help people connect with each other based on their appearance and academic background as a way to attract users.

Operation methods that only focus on commercial interests

Most operators of dating apps in Korea are trying to take excessive commercial profit by inducing users to pay cash until a matching happens. It is natural for operators to take commercial advantages. However, it seems as if they do not consider the main purpose of dating apps well. The main purpose is to help users meet new people easily, but operators have added excessive payment demands. Eventually, users cannot utilize dating apps effectively.
As companies which run dating apps prioritize commercial interests, it has been found that they produce similar apps repeatedly. Looking at the apps that are actually in the Date category of Google Play, a dating app production company called “BNKLAB” runs several similar apps like “DangYeonSi,” “Sweet Me,” and “SarangAe.” Like this, dating app companies have created a lot of similar apps by changing partial formats in order to maintain demand. It also takes a lot of commercial interest from it, encouraging users to pay cash for each app. However, consumers use such apps without distinguishing well between their differences.

What should be improved on dating apps

Establishment of a thorough authentication system

Dating app companies must make sure that people cannot misrepresent their identity. For this, it may be a good idea to use fingerprints and iris authentication, as well as to write their own personal information.
As an example, “Match Korea” let users authenticate one’s identity through a public certificate login. Users need to input the authentication number confirmed on mobile devices within seven minutes. Then screen scraping, software that extracts only the necessary data from the screen, is needed through login of the public certificate on a PC.
Also, Noondate introduced machine learning technology, a machine learning method used in Google AlphaGo. It has collected various bits of information through learning and experience. If users fill in personal information and set up a profile photo, the machine inspects whether people wrote false information. This prevents people from stealing somebody’s identity or image from the start.

Matching method through an internal figure rather than an external figure

Dating apps that focus on the external factors of people should be changed. Currently, there are many apps that allow men and women to express favor based on only profile photos. Now, however, operators need to reduce the percentage of photos and increase the proportion of items that users can indicate their own personality, hobbies, and views of love.
Kim Heon-sik, a cultural critic, said, “Companies need to organize their dating apps so people can better know each other by diversifying categories rather than simply evaluating someone on appearance. For example, there are various criteria for each person, such as wanting to meet someone who is active in personal relationships. Therefore, apps themselves should be diversified.”
“NextMatch” launched a dating app “Groove: Dating base on interest” in June 2018. The app is constituted so that users can choose a person within a group of the same interests such as athletics, movies, games and so on. They can also tag their own interests and increase the matching probability. In this respect, this app is different from apps that focus on appearance.

Payment structure that reduces user burden

While dating apps of Korea need users to pay a certain fee for actual matching, “Tinder,” a famous American dating app, offers free profile viewing and chat room opening. Furthermore, it charges a fee for using the function to match the locals of the desired country. As a result, Tinder is much less burdensome for users in that it provides many free functions for matching. Therefore, in Korea, it may be necessary to change the payment structure gradually, taking into consideration the main purpose of the users, not just for pursuing the commercial interests.
Kim Heon-sik said, “If operators really consider users, they have to develop dating apps into apps with a lot of substantial contents, and increase the chances of users getting to know their counterparts.”
If dating apps are changed for users, they will eventually attract more users, and in the long run, it will benefit those who run the apps.

Nowadays, dating apps are gaining huge popularity even enough to appear in TV dramas. Also, they are attractive in that they can match users with each other well. However, if someone is harmed from dating apps and some detrimental problems happen, they can never remain as good apps for society. Therefore, it is necessary to try to develop apps that users can enjoy in a safe and wholesome environment by strengthening the advantages and making up for the disadvantages.

By Jang Yu-jin
Associate Editor of Culture Section

2019.03.11  No : 500 By Jang Yu-jin dbwls548625@hufs.ac.kr
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