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[Opinion] Foreign Wives

Posted December. 09, 2006 07:57,   


‘Where there is a will, there is a gorgeous Southeast Asian wife,” “Marry a Vietnamese girl. Available for first timer, second timer as well as disabled person,” “Credit cards are welcome. No advanced payment.” Banners of international marriage arrangement agencies are everywhere on the roads and footpaths between rice fields of rural villages where young single women are difficult to find. Surprisingly, however, similar banners can be not only found on the hiking trails of a mountain in Seocho, one of Korea’s most affluent town, but also on the outer roads of other affluent cities. If you take out the word, “marriage” from the banners, one might take it for escort service advertisement.

Foreign wives who have settled in Hongseong and members of Hongseong YMCA gathered on Thursday to tear and dispose of marriage agencies’ banners in the county with a sickle or scissor. “I couldn’t understand why neighbors were so unfriendly and looked down on us until I saw the banners,” said Hong Fung, 24-year old Vietnamese woman who lives in Hongseong after marrying a Korean man two years ago. She was about to cry when she said that she felt miserable and angry because people seemed to look at her as a girl who came to Korea after being sold for money. “I felt as if my personality and honor were crumbled and thrown out onto the streets,” she added.

There have been many reports of human rights violations in the process of arranging marriage between bachelors of farming villages and foreign women. In some cases, a man meets up to 40 women at a time or marries within a couple of days after the first meeting. Some men even demand dowry or a medical certificate that proves virginity. Those foreign women remind us of Korean women who went to Hawaii just with a single photograph of their to-be husband in search of a better life. Their future husband was the only hope for these Korean women who decided to go to a foreign land where they were not even able to communicate with neighbors

Some 32,000 foreign women wedded to Korean men last year alone. Recently, the Vietnamese women became increasing popular in Korea as their appearance resembles much of Koreans. Some 8,200 Vietnamese women came to Korea and married a Korean man this year. Offensive banners which take away the pride of foreign wives can not be tolerated, regardless of how effective they might be to allure more customers. It is not only a disgrace to single Korean men in rural villages of Korea having a hard time to find their partner, but also to the country. One in out of three rural village males marries foreigners these days. The foreign women who marry Koreans become Koreans and they also become the wives and mothers of Koreans. We open our minds and accept them as one of us.

Chung Sung-hee, Editorial Writer, shchung@donga.com