Multicultural divorce rate soaring around nationLate last year, a Korean man surnamed Kim, 46, filed for a divorce at the Seoul Family Court from the 18-year-old Vietnamese wife he married in 2008. Kim, a manual laborer, said that his wife left home because she couldn’t adapt to the Korean way of life.
Kim went to the court and pleaded to make the divorce final quickly because his new wife-to-be from China was soon to arrive. Last week, Kim’s divorce was finalized and he immediately married the Chinese woman.
“In many cases, when foreign brides [in Korea] leave home it’s because of the husband. But the husbands often don’t even think of trying to find them and file for a quick divorce,” said an official at the Seoul Family Court.
Divorce among multicultural couples in Korea is rising rapidly. The number of divorce suits filed last year in the Seoul Family Court, 32 percent involved multicultural couples. From January to February, the rate was closer to 40 percent.
The most common reasons for the divorce by such couples were physical abuse, a spouse leaving home, cultural differences and racism.
Take the case of another Korean man surnamed Kim, 48. Kim married a Chinese woman, C, and beat her constantly. C said that Kim threatened to take more of her money so that he could pay off debts and didn’t come home often. Last spring, Kim beat C and threw her out of his house. Soon afterwards, he brought in another woman. Late last year, C filed for a divorce to go back to China. “I never want to return to Korea,” she said during her divorce trial.
C married her Korean husband in 2007. After the marriage, he never worked and stayed at home playing computer games. C became the breadwinner and worked at a restaurant and even took care of her Korean husband’s brother.
D, a Vietnamese woman in her 20s, married a Korean farmer last year but recently filed for divorce. “I couldn’t bare the disdain from my husband’s family,” she said, adding that her husband’s family scolded her from early on in the marriage.
She said that on the first day of her married life, her Korean mother-in-law cursed at her, saying that she was an “ill-mannered [expletive deleted]” because she wore shoes inside the house like she did in Vietnam. From then on, the mother-in-law said things to D like “you don’t know anything because you come from a poor country.”
During her divorce trial, D said, “I couldn’t bare the situation anymore in which my husband’s family couldn’t accept me.”
Recently, there has been an increasing number of Korean men who file for divorce after six or seven previous ones. “There are many cases in which [these men] treat marriage like a department store. They get married but after a short while, if they get tired of the woman. They get a divorce and find a new woman,” said a judge at the Seoul Family Court.
Judges at the court say that one of the reasons that there are so many divorces among multicultural couples is that they get married without knowing each other well. They say that in many cases, the couples only get to see a photo before registering for marriage.
“One of the main reasons [for multicultural divorces] is that Korean men do not try to understand anything about his spouse’s different culture,” said Lee Hyeong-gon, head multicultural family researcher at the family court.
Many judges say that these divorces will affect children.
“I often see children who go through their parents’ divorce at the family court become juvenile delinquents,” said Kim Yun-jeong, a judge at the Seoul Family Court.
By Jeon Jin-bae, Hong Hye-jin [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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