Top Korean matchmaking agency branches out

Dating is not enough. The nation's No.1 matchmaking agency Duo wishes to take part in the next crucial steps of life: marriage and having a family.

"We've already made a name for ourselves as a professional matchmaker. It's time we branched out into other business, and believe me, weddings and marriage consulting is right up our alley," said Kim Hyae-jeong, president and CEO of Duo in an interview.

Dressed simply but tastefully in a violet-colored jacket and matching slacks, Kim explained that she felt it a part of Duo's responsibility to take part in the after-process after the couples tie the knot.

"We make sure people meet the right match, and now we want to be a part of something more in their lives," Kim said.

Duo Wed and Duo Remarry are the affiliates that carry on the Duo name; the former offers wedding planning services while the latter finds the right match for people looking for a second chance in marriage.

But in the meantime, Duo's mainstay business will be matchmaking.

Some say Kim had it easy over the years ? she was inaugurated as chief executive officer in 2001 through ties with the founder of Duo ? citing the company's solid presence in the industry, but Kim talked of the challenges.

"Not to say I had a really tough time because yes, Duo was already a household name, but we had a brand to live up to, which made my job a challenging one," Kim said.

The brand power of Duo is such that it accounts for more than two-thirds of the matchmaking market in Korea. Last year, it saw more than 25,000 couples stand before the altar, which is about 80 percent of its clients.

Kim attributed Duo's success to its efforts to continue cultivating its brand name, and also to the "couple managers" who are in charge of the process once the clients sign up for blind dates.

"Our people are the best you can find in this industry," Kim said.

Clients at matchmaking agencies complain of the quality of these managers, saying that they seemed to be clueless about the type of person they were looking for despite having met the clients numerous times.

"Our couple managers speak tremendously often with their clients because they know that while our matchmaking system is very scientific, we need a human touch to make things complete," the CEO said.

It used to be that Korean matchmaking services benchmarked Japan, where the business took off more than a decade earlier.

But now it's the other way around, mainly thanks to Duo, Kim said.

"Just a while ago, we had people streaming in from a Japanese matchmaking service wanting to benchmark us. This means a lot to us, because it used to be the other way around," she said.

Duo's wide media exposure on mainstream TV in the 90s coupled with the breakneck speed of technological development such as the spread of the internet seem to be the two main factors responsible for the continuous fame the company is enjoying. Duo clients can check the profiles of other potential dates and decide whether they want to go ahead with the meeting with the click of the mouse.

To all single men and women, Kim had one message to give: "My message to all the singles out there is to lower your standards. You are not going to meet someone who is perfect, and even if you do, chances are, that person won't take you."

The words sounded harsh, but she softened them, adding that she places the most priority on seeing people choose their right partner, regardless of how they go about doing it ? whether through dating agencies or from their own resources.

jemmie@heraldcorp.com

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