Mail-Order Bride's Murder Is a Symptom of a Larger Problem

      July 16, 2010 13:15

      A 20-year-old Vietnamese woman in Busan was last week stabbed to death by her Korean husband, who had a history of mental illness. She had got married just eight days before her death in a wedding arranged by an international matchmaking firm.

      On hearing the news, her parents rushed to Korea from Vietnam and wailed as they held her wedding picture in their hands. "Please bring her husband and the people who arranged the marriage to justice," they said. "Please make sure this tragedy does not happen again."

      The woman's husband had apparently been treated for schizophrenia for the last eight years. It is beyond comprehension how a man with such a history of mental illness could have been selected as a candidate by the matchmaking firm, and police need to find out whether the company turned a blind eye to the problem even when they found out about it.

      There are around 1,250 international matchmaking firms in Korea. The government toughened regulations a little in 2008, requiring them to register with state authorities. Previously they only had to report the opening of their business to relevant local government agencies. And starting in November they must unveil records of previous marriages, health conditions, occupations and criminal histories of both the brides and grooms. But there is no way to check the validity of the information. The U.S. government requires matchmaking firms to check the records of brides and grooms and get the information notarized.

      In spite of the toughened regulations in Korea, virtually anyone can register a mail-order bride business. As a result, 44 percent of these companies are staffed by just one person, and 33 percent are run by husband-and-wife teams. This has triggered intense competition in the industry and often leads to lax standards. In Taiwan, only non-profit organizations or foundations are allowed to broker international marriages.

      Last year, almost 10 percent of the 309,759 couples who tied the knot in Korea were international marriages. In rural Korean communities, one out of every three couples consists of a Korean husband and a foreign wife. The complaints involving international marriages received by the Korea Consumer Agency rose from just 64 in 2005 to 182 last year.

      After the latest tragedy, the Vietnamese media is warning of the dangers of international marriage, saying that marrying Korean men is like betting one's life away. Korean government officials should think about how they would feel if a Korean woman was murdered this way by her Vietnamese husband. The causes of this tragic incident must be thoroughly investigated so that it does not happen again. 

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