Police crack down on illegal marriage brokers

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Police crack down on illegal marriage brokers

The police are currently investigating 67 people who are believed to have illegally arranged marriages between Korean men and foreign women, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said yesterday at a briefing.

The probe is part of an intensified crackdown by authorities since March on illegal international marriage brokerage agencies.

The suspects allegedly introduced multiple women - minors in some cases - to their clients and did not provide the women with their clients’ personal information, police said. Eight out of the 67 suspects were also operating businesses without a license.

According to revised regulations for marriage brokerage agencies by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, businesses must provide the personal information of their clients, certified by a notary, to potential marriage partners. Agencies must also have more than 100 million won ($97,300) in capital to obtain a business license.

One 46-year-old suspect surnamed Kim allegedly registered his brokerage firm in his wife’s name because of his sexual conviction record. He is also alleged to have introduced a 17-year-old Vietnamese woman to a 38-year-old Korean man in July 2013.

Another unlicensed 46-year-old suspect, surnamed Hong, is believed to have introduced women from Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Cambodia to five Korean men from January 2013 to April 2014, charging each Korean client 10 million to 12 million won. Hong is also accused of not properly providing his female charges with his clients’ personal information.

Police believe other suspects arranged group meetings in which men were allowed to select their potential wives, which is illegal under the ministry’s revised regulations.

A 52-year-old surnamed Park, for instance, is suspected to have flown to Vietnam in November 2013 with two Korean clients so that they could choose their mates from among 20 Vietnamese women brought to a local park.

International marriage agencies are not legally allowed to introduce minors - defined as anyone 18 years old or younger - or multiple people at the same time.

Police believe most of the suspects involved in the probe brought five to 10 locals to predetermined venues and presented them one by one to clients. They are also alleged to have sidestepped their obligation to prepare notarized, translated documents of their clients’ information for the women, or in a few cases falsified them.

The number of international unions has surged over the past decade, according to ministry statistics, which has added to concerns over instances of domestic violence, human trafficking and divorce.

“We will keep watching illegal international marriage brokerage firms [in collaboration] with local governments,” a police officer said. “We are also planning to strengthen our crackdown on foreign women who try to land jobs in Korea by taking advantage of international marriage.”

BY KIM BONG-MOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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