Do we really want babies?

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Do we really want babies?

Ten days ago, I visited China and heard a shocking story from a local Korean. More Chinese men are bringing in young brides from Vietnam and the Philippines, and the women from these countries prefer China over Korea. Honestly, I never would have guessed that Korea would fall behind in the global marriage market.

The man added that China’s competitive edge is that the Chinese people are not as biased against foreigners as Koreans. Because China is composed of various ethnic groups, women from other countries experience less discrimination. They are also attracted by the fact that their children are less likely to be ostracized in China than in Korea. It is estimated that China’s demand for foreign brides numbers around 30 million, so if more Chinese men seek foreign brides, single Korean men in the provinces will have a harder time finding a wife.

“I am a 42-year-old farmer. My mother is in a nursing home, and my father suffers from a brain disease and cannot move around freely. I would like my bride to come to Korea as soon as possible, but she cannot enter because she hasn’t passed the Korean language test,” one Korean man lamented in a post on an online forum in April.

When a foreigner marries a Korean national, he or she must have a certificate of proficiency in Korean, level one or higher, or a document of completion from a basic Korean class at an education institute designated by the Korean government to enter the country. China has no such requirement.

Last week, the government announced a basic plan to deal with the low birth rate and an aging population. The aggregated birthrate goal is 1.5 by 2020.

Last year’s figure was 1.25, up from 1.16 in 2004. When the fertility rate rose by just 0.8 over a decade, the government aimed to triple growth in five years. Today, there are about 120 children per apartment complex with 100 women of childbearing age; the goal is to have 150 children in five years. Do the authors of this report really believe this is possible?

The 194-page report spares just one page on international marriage, which contains a plan to conduct a multicultural family survey in 2018 and reflect those results in national policy. It means the government would collect basic statistics by then. Do we really want a country with so many children? I cannot help but doubt this sincerity.

The author is the deputy national news editor
for the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 28, Page 35

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