Legal Grey Areas Lead to Messy Mail-Order Bride Divorces

The increase in international marriages in Korea has led to growing abuse and complaints which end in divorce as Korean men marry mail-order brides from abroad after only a few hours of acquaintance, or in some cases none at all.

When they divorce, the women sometimes use children from the marriage as a means to blackmail their ex-husbands. The Seoul Family Court saw about 40 cases last year where child custody was one of main conflicts in international marriages.

As of 2010, there have been more than 26,000 international marriages between Korean men and foreign women. In the same year, nearly 8,000 of such couples divorced.

There is not much that men who have been scammed can do. If they turn to the police, it may mean that they never see the child again. One 44-year-old man who married a 24-year-old Vietnamese woman two years ago is having a hard time because his wife sent the child to Vietnam last year and is now demanding a W30 million (US$1=1,158) divorce settlement if he wants her to bring the child back to Korea.

"I could simply withdraw sponsorship for my wife's residence permit, but I couldn't do it because I'm afraid that I might not be able to see my child ever again as she is using the child as leverage," he confessed.

Many migrant wives who come to Korea have no one to turn to if they suffer abuse or communication problems, but many Korean husbands also have hard time keeping their marriage together due to lack of legal recourse.

A judge with the Seoul Family Court said, "Most migrant wives come from China, the Philippines and Vietnam, which have not signed to the international convention preventing scams using children born from a partnership with a foreigner, so it is not easy to tackle these kind of problems."

englishnews@chosun.com / Jan. 20, 2012 07:40 KST