Shameful marriage practiceFor years, growing numbers of Korean men have gone looking for wives in countries overseas, mostly in Southeast Asia.
Today, one in 10 Korean men are married to a non-Korean citizen. The ratio is true in four in 10 rural neighborhoods.
But the trend has had serious repercussions - especially for women. Brokers seeking easy money recruit foreign women and arrange marriages that, in many cases, amount to human trafficking. Local girls and women are lined up and paraded in front of prospective husbands. Rarely are the women given accurate information about the man they are about to marry.
According to a government poll from 2006, 1.3 in 10 marriage migrants said they discovered they had been deceived in some way after their marriage to a Korean man.
That’s what happened to a young Vietnamese woman who was stabbed to death by her husband just eight days after she started her married life in Korea. She, like many of the young women who immigrate through marriage seeking a better life for themselves or the families they’ve left behind, arrive here with hope. She, like many of her peers, had her life ended tragically and much too soon.
Many of the women in her situation are murdered or find themselves having to run from their new husbands to escape continued physical and mental abuse. Some have even taken their own lives. If they had known of the true nature of their husbands-to-be, it is unlikely they would ever have agreed to get married.
One country, Cambodia, has taken action to protect its citizens. It banned its citizens from marrying Korean men. When Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen met with President Lee Myung-bak last October, he asked Korea to give special attention to Cambodian women married to Korean men.
But we cannot expect other countries to solve the problem. We must find a solution for what has become a serious social problem. Abuses of foreign wives by Korean men could also create a diplomatic stigma against us.
In a positive step forward, the Ministry of Justice has announced that all men planning to take marriage trips overseas will soon have to take a government-led class before they depart. It also plans to prohibit men with a history of mental illness, incarceration or three previous international marriages from getting a visa.
We must address these disgraceful cases of international marriages before they leave a lasting stain on our country.