November 18, 2017 08:12
Vietnamese women made up the biggest proportion of foreign brides in Korea last year, overtaking Chinese women for the first time.
According to Statistics Korea on Thursday, 6,054 Vietnamese women married Korean men in 2016, compared to 5,838 Chinese. They accounted for 27.9 percent of mixed marriages, up from 20.9 percent in 2014. But the proportion of Chinese women, often ethnic Koreans, fell from 38.6 percent in 2008 to 26.9 percent.
The trend is apparently helped by the popularity of K-pop and Korean soaps in Southeast Asia. "Favorable impressions of Korea lead to Vietnamese women applying for jobs in Korean companies and coming to study in Korea," Statistics Korea said.
A staffer at Lotte Mart, which has 13 stores in Vietnam, said, "Vietnamese women in their 20s and 30s buy Korean products they see in the soaps. We sell more Korean food products in Vietnam than in China."
Samsung, LG and other Korean businesses that have moved manufacture to Vietnam are contributing to the positive views Vietnamese have of the country. Samsung now makes 40 percent of its total smartphone output in Vietnam and employs 100,000 people there.
"A lot of our Vietnamese staff want to learn Korean and experience Korean culture," a Samsung staffer said. "Korean is as popular as English and has almost become a second language here."
Twenty universities in Vietnam have Korean language departments, and 120,000 Korean expats, the biggest number in Southeast Asia, serve as bridges connecting the two countries.
Marriage brokers say the strong Confucian tradition in Vietnam make women popular among Korean men. One marriage broker here said, "These days, eight or nine out of every 10 phone calls we get ask about Vietnamese brides. Vietnamese women are popular because they're hard-working and willing to support their parents-in-law."
Choi Yun-jeong at the Korean Women's Development Institute said, "Strengthened regulations since 2010 have led to a decline in international marriages, but the number of Vietnamese brides is increasing."
Vietnamese wives of Koreans often introduce family members or relatives to other Korean men. Meanwhile, increasing working opportunities and the improving Chinese economy make Korea less attractive for women there.
"There used to be a lot of ethnic Korean women from China who married Korean men to gain employment, but recently the visa requirements have been relaxed, so there are opportunities to work here even if they don't get married," said Lee Duk-ryong at the Justice Ministry.
One staffer at a marriage brokerage firm said the mail-order bride market in China is "dead" because of the rapid growth of the economy.
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