More Koreans Marry Foreigners

  • By Kim Yeon-ju

    March 02, 2021 13:16

    More Koreans are marrying foreigners again after a brief lull in the mid-2010s.

    According to Statistics Korea, international marriages dropped to 20,591 in 2016 after peaking at 42,356 in 2005 but have kept increasing since to reach 23,643 in 2019. The figures are rising even as overall marriages have dropped to record lows.

    In the past, many young men from rural areas saw no option but to find themselves mail-order brides because no Korean women would have them. But currently the increase seems to be due to Koreans of either sex getting married to foreigners they meet while studying or working abroad, which suggests that the trend has shifted to educated urban people.

    That also means that the foreigners they marry have diversified. In 2009, 11,364 or 45 percent were Korean men who married Chinese women and 29 percent Vietnamese women. Only eight percent of brides came from other countries. But in 2019, 6,712 or 38 percent of the brides were Vietnamese, 3,649 or 21 percent Chinese, 2,528 or 14 percent women from various other countries, and 2,050 or 12 percent American women.

    As for women, in 2009, 32 percent married Chinese men, 30 percent Japanese men, and 16 percent American men. But in 2019, 38 percent got married to men from various countries, 25 percent to American men, and 23 percent to Chinese men.

    With breakups on the rise, many Koreans are now seeking foreign spouses for their second marriage. An official with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said, "Many Koreans are seeking foreigners as spouses for their second marriage. And many foreigners who gained Korean citizenship after they tied the knot with Koreans are remarrying people from their own country," which is statistically considered an international marriage.

    The number of foreigners marrying Koreans is also increasing recently. The number of marriage immigrants increased by 10 percent from 2016 to 2019. Many are Vietnamese and Cambodian men seeking immigration visas by marrying Korean women.

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