Woman recalls deceit in migrant marriage
As the number of international marriages continues to rise, there is no shortage of stories painting multiculturalism in a positive light. But one such marriage has left a woman fighting for custody of her son in a trend of marital deception that appears to be growing.
The woman, who asked to be identified only as Oh, 38, is part of an Internet group with thousands of members who have suffered as a result of marriages with Pakistani and Bangladeshi men. The Korean women writing there have shared stories of being tricked into marriages with migrant workers from the two countries as well as verbal and physical abuse.
Oh met her ex-husband, identified as “M,” in 2006. At the time, M was a migrant worker staying in the country illegally but the two grew close and he tried numerous times to propose.
Looking back, she said she now sees him as “eager to look for a Korean woman to marry so he could acquire Korean citizenship.”
“When I think about it now, I was so stupid. But back then, when he was sweet-talking me and saying how much he loved me, I was blind,” Oh said in a phone interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily. “One day, he called me and said he had been detained after getting caught for being an illegal worker. He was crying and said how much he loved me and how he wanted to marry me.”
Oh, who had been rejecting M’s proposals up to then, said she couldn’t refuse because he sounded so earnest.
But it wasn’t long before she found out that he had other intentions.
“Two days later [after the phone call], he was deported to Pakistan and he asked me to go with him to register our marriage in Pakistan,” Oh said. “So I followed him and brought the marriage certificate back by myself, among other things, so he could return to Korea.”
After 10 months, her husband was given a marriage visa and he returned. But that was when things changed.
“He said he wanted to live in a dormitory at his workplace with his friends because our house was 30 minutes from work,” Oh said. “That was the start of our separation.”
Even after Oh became pregnant, M only visited her occasionally. She said she even gave birth without her.
“My husband only gave me money when he felt like it, so I couldn’t purchase anything - from diapers to milk powder - for my infant son ,” said Oh. “Then I joined the Internet group and received donations of used bottles and half-eaten boxes of milk powder.”
Things reached nightmare proportions when they took the baby to Pakistan to visit the family and M took their son to a relative’s house without her knowledge and returned without him. Oh tried to look for the baby, but couldn’t find him and had to return to Korea on her own.
“Ever since then, I’ve told my husband that I’d divorce him if he didn’t give my child back,” Oh said. “At first, he coaxed me and said he had no choice [but to do what he did], as his mother wanted to raise the baby for a while. He promised to bring him back soon.”
But M didn’t keep his promise.
“When it had been nearly two years since my ex-husband began living in Korea, he started treating me so differently and when I told him I wanted a divorce, he acted as though he didn’t care,” Oh recalled. “But a couple of days after that, he suddenly changed his attitude. He began apologizing and begging me not to leave him. But I still wanted a divorce so I went to the immigration office to sort things out.”
When she was at the office, she found out he had recently been there to apply for permanent residency status but was turned down because he’d miscalculated the time left on his marriage visa. An immigrant spouse must remain married and be in Korea for two years until he or she can apply for permanent residency status. Although M had been married to Oh for two years when he submitted his application, he forgot to factor in the month the couple had been in Pakistan.
“No wonder he changed plans and wanted to save the marriage,” said Oh, who went ahead with the divorce.
She hoped to gain custody of their son through the divorce proceedings. Instead, she was encouraged by an immigration official to give custody of the child to M so he would bring the baby back from Pakistan in order to obtain permanent residency for himself, which is permissible under the law. Although she took the official’s advice, she is currently trying to regain custody of her son, who is living in Korea with his father.
“There are so many women who have similar stories as mine. Most of us were hesitant to marry a migrant worker, but all of the TV shows and news stories beautifying multiculturalism and the stories of multicultural families living happily in Korea comforted us,” Oh said. “But now, all of us are suffering from broken marriages. I just don’t want to see any more victims like myself.”
By Yim Seung-hye [firstname.lastname@example.org]