Friday, April 2, 2010

Korea's Marriage Migrants

Doing research for an upcoming project, I stumbled across a fascinating piece of research presented at the International Conference on Border Control and Empowerment of Immigrant Brides held in September 2007 in Taipei. Marriage Migrant Women in Korea and Attempts to Organize Them was presented by Lee, Inkyoung. She uses case studies and statistical data to highlight the problems faced by women, mostly from rural China and Vietnam, who come to Korea to marry with the promise of the wealth of a more powerful country. Unfortunately, the reality of such arranged marriages rarely live up to the promise of "The Korean Dream."

Some excerpts:

“There were many people who went to work in Korea from my hometown. They became richer and built nice houses when they came back. I envied them a lot. I was keen to work in Korea. But it was quite difficult to get a working visa. One of my acquaintances introduced me to a Korean man. I just thought that I would marry him and as soon as I arrive in Korea, I would run away from him and work somewhere. But the guy was quite gentle to me. We just fell in love with each other after several meetings and I gave up running away from him. But you have to know it, most foreign brides come to Korea because of poverty. If they are well-educated or if their family has a lot of property, they never come to Korea for marriage especially to men old enough to be their father. Our family does not have much money and could not give us education so I came here. Even Korean men who are married to foreigners don’t have money like us. If they are tall, well educated, or have good jobs and good salary, they never marry us. We were poor there but we are poor here in Korea.”? Related by a Chinese who has lived for 3 years in Korea.

It’s a story from my Chinese coworker. I believe she explained well the situation at home, their motivation for marriage migration and the method they use. I already gave up academic value in this paper. I think it’s beyond my ability. I am using many cases to understand the situation of marriage migrant women in Korea.


Usually Korean men who want to marry Vietnamese have to pay around 10,000USD to 15,000USD to the brokers. The brokers take the men for marriage trips for 5 nights and 6 days on the average. I would like to describe in detail what they do during the trip so that we can understand how quickly marriage is conducted by the brokers. The first day, they reach Vietnam. They attend a marriage meeting and select their girls. If the girls agree to marry them they meet the girls' parents and date with the girls and prepare documents in seconds. They apply for spouse visa to the Korean embassy and take a medical check-up and go shopping for their brides on the third day. They have the wedding and sleep together on the fourth day and go on honeymoon trip on the fifth day. Korean husbands take a medical check up and come back to Korea on the sixth day. I think it's quite a short time for someone to meet and decide his/her spouse within 6 days. Brokers' interest is getting higher by the success rate of marriage. So the brokers never provide real information to either party but only the image of Asian women to Korean men and developed Korean society to foreign women. This kind of marriage has potential problems due to lack of information and time. We receive many complaints from migrant women towards the brokers such as domestic violence, confinement, and other severe human rights abuses.

The statistics she pulls are also enough to knock some sense of perspective into the English teacher K-blogging circle who complain about Korea's reaction to their relationships with Korean women. Of the 39,690 marriages between a Korean national and a foreign person registered in 2006, almost 70% were between a Korean man and a woman from China, Vietnam, Philippines, Mongolia, Cambodia, and Uzbekistan, countries known to have marriage brokering services for Korean men.

People who complain about E-2 visa regulations in Korea may not be wrong, but they really should realize that there are bigger immigration fish to fry in this homogeneous and sometimes xenophobic country. Do some good and educate yourself about these things.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails