July 12, 2010 11:09
Of the 309,759 couples who tied the knot in Korea last year, 33,300 or around 10 percent were of different ethnic origin. Some 110,000 women from China, Mongolia and Southeast Asian countries live in Korea, many of them married to Koreans they barely knew before marriage and headed for an acrimonious divorce.
In order to deal with these problems, the Justice Ministry on Sunday announced plans requiring Korean men who want to marry a foreign woman to attend classes on "marriage ethics." The classes will start this August at immigration offices before men head out to China or Southeast Asia in search of a foreign bride. Each class will last three to four hours and will focus on teaching men that it is wrong to think that they are buying a wife and to hide things about themselves like previous marriages or problems with alcohol. The government will not grant visas to foreign brides of men who failed to take those classes.
◆ Government Intervention
The measure reflects a shift in policy. Until now, the government did not intervene in international marriages, considering them to be a personal matter. The only thing the government did was offer Korean culture classes to foreign wives.
But increasing reports of violence against foreign brides in Korea prompted a UN committee last year to advise the Korean government to do something. In March last year, the Cambodian government banned citizens from marrying Koreans after a local marriage broker was convicted for recruiting 25 girls from rural areas and arranging for them to be married off to Korean men.
◆ Marriage Brokers
Foreign women who marry Korean men usually find their grooms through brokers who arrange meetings with groups of Korean men. Once chosen, the women get married over the next month or two and arrive in Korea. But brokers often hide crucial information, such as the men's age or disabilities, leading to accusations of fraud. There are more than 1,200 registered marriage brokers in Korea, 77 percent of them small operations staffed by one or two people.
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