A man who operates excavators on building sites posted a message on the Internet last month after learning that he could earn W4 million by simply signing marriage documents with a foreign woman seeking a Korean residence visa and maintaining the relationship for two years (US$1=W1,129). Just two days later he received four phone calls from Vietnamese, Mongolian and Chinese women.
After some bargaining he mailed them his employment certificate and a copy of his family register on condition that he gets paid W3.5 million. He said he would marry the first woman to wire the payment. The man later told police he needed cash because he had lost money in a business venture and his wife had divorced him.
An official at the Justice Ministry said direct online transactions are becoming more common since going through brokers costs W7 million in commissions.
The number of foreigners living in Korea surged from just 200,000 in 2000 to around 1.4 million now, a seven-fold increase. Every year around 1,000 foreigners are deported for faking their marriage to a Korean national.
"In the past, brokers used the IDs of homeless people, old widowers and physically disabled men to arrange fake marriages," said the Justice Ministry official. "These days, the deals are made directly between men who are desperate for money and foreign women seeking Korean citizenship."