A Vietnamese woman has been arrested on charges of arranging at least 16 fake marriages between Korean men and Vietnamese women, the Justice Ministry said Monday.
When a taskforce under the ministry checked on the couples, it found that 12 of the men were living alone in single accommodation like studio apartments or rooming houses.
The ministry says the men got paid around W3.5 to 4 million (US$1=W1,085) for entering a false marriage and maintaining the status for two years. That often equaled up to three months' salary working part-time.
"Young men starting a life of their own resort to easy means to earn money and don't even stop at faking their family register," said an official with the taskforce. "Until a couple of years ago, most people who entered fake marriages were over 40 and mostly in a desperate situation, but now there are a lot more young men in their 20s and 30s."
Of the 530 men who were caught in a fake marriage by the taskforce last year, about 15 percent were in their 20s or 30s.
The arrested broker, who was identified by her surname Kim, is a university graduate who came to Korea on a work visa in 2000, and became a naturalized citizen by marriage in 2005.
She told investigators she ran an international matchmaking agency with her husband for six months, and although the business went bust she learned a lot about how sham marriages work.
Kim started arranging them in late 2011 and said it was easy to find willing Korean men. Demand was increasing because many young men contacted her after seeing online ads, she added.
She was paid W7 to 8 million by Vietnamese women who wanted to come to Korea and paid the men W3.5 to W4 million, pocketing W1 million and using the rest to arrange documents and fly the men to Vietnam for wedding photos.
Many of the Vietnamese women earn only around W100,000 a month in their country, so the W8 million they pay for a fake marriage is as much as their 80 months' salary. "They choose to pay what for them is a huge amount of money because a fake marriage is the surest way to get to Korea," said the official.