Increase in Intercultural Marriages
In recent years, the number of mixed marriages in Korea has increased substantially due to a number of factors, among them the high number of Korean studying abroad and the number of men who, unable to find a Korean wife, are marrying foreign nationals. International marriages now make up more than 13% of all marriages in Korea. The bulk of 'mixed' marriages are between Korean men and foreign women, but there are also many Korean women marrying men from other countries. The circumstances of the marriages tend to differ depending on the gender of the Korean spouse.
Reportedly, international marriages in Korea have tripled since 2003 with the number of foreign wives numbering about 130,000 in 2008 with an estimated 8% of Korean men, especially those in rural areas, marrying non-Koreans. By country, China formed the largest group of foreign wives with some 52,000, including ethnic Korean Chinese. Vietnam came next with 20,942, followed by the Philippines with 7,601, Japan with 5,949 and Taiwan with 2,043. Foreign brides have also come from Mongolia, Thailand and Russia. International marriages now make up 13% of all marriages in South Korea. Most of these marriages are unions between a Korean male and a foreign female, from China, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, United States, Mongolia, Thailand, and Russia. Many of these marriages are arranged through brokers where the Korean will have paid around W10 million or more for his wife or through mass weddings as performed by the Unification Church, the couples generally don’t know each other, don’t speak the other’s language and know little, or nothing, about the other’s culture. Consequently, the unions face serious challenges.
The women often don’t know their rights and may be abused by their husband and his family. Part of the problem faced by many is that their rights are limited in Korea. Until very recently, they could not complain about their husbands or leave an abusive situation, because they would have to leave the country, probably without their children. Because the women are usually not citizens (they may not be able to meet the language and other requirements or be willing to give up citizenship in their birth countries as required by Korean law), their names may not appear on their child/children’s family registration. They don’t have a say at their child’s school, and the child may also face problems as a result of her/his ‘mixed’ blood. Korean society places a high value on ‘pure’ Korean blood and those that don’t have it may be seen as inferior intellectually and socially.
The number of mixed marriages having mushroomed in the last few years, the government was unprepared and protections for foreign spouses have lagged behind their increased presence. However, the government is attempting to address the problems that have ensued as a result of these marriages. Protections have been enacted so enable the women to stay in the country and keep their children if they leave their husbands.
As a means of reducing future problems, the government is setting up programs for men who are thinking of marrying a foreign woman through a collaboration between the Ministry of Gender Equality and the Ministry of Justice. Also, the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs is offering programs to help foreign wives to adjust to Korean society through Healthy Family Support Centers nationwide.
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|Emergency Support Centers for Migrant Women||Increase in Intercultural Marriages|
|Networks for Foreign Spouses of Korean Nationals||Pre-Marriage Regulations|
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