Go to contents

Cambodian Ban on Int`l Marriage

Posted March. 22, 2010 05:42,   


“Marry a Vietnamese virgin girl”; “She’ll never run away”; “100-percent success in first-time marriages, remarriages, and marriages of the disabled”; “Fee payable by credit card after the wedding”; and “Full refund if the bride is not admitted to Korea.” The banners carrying these sales slogans are mostly gone, but were hung by international marriage brokers throughout Korea. In Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam and Cambodia, hostess bar-type meetings for marriage were arranged to give Korean men a chance to pick from among dozens of women. This practice was a truly rude act and insulting to the dozens of women who were not selected, their families, and their people.

The Cambodian government has temporarily suspended marriages between Cambodians and Koreans. In Cambodia, group matchmaking meetings are illegal and about 60 percent of partners in international marriages are Koreans. Such matchmaking practices can leave lasting scars in the minds of foreign women who want to marry Koreans to pursue their Korean dream. In many cases, marriage brokers give false or exaggerated information on the personal profiles and wealth of Korean suitors, often resulting in divorce and family trouble. This brings shame to Korea.

Korea is fast shifting into a multicultural and multiethnic society, with the number of people from foreign origins exceeding one million. Last year, 43,121 marriages, or 13.6 percent of the national total, involved one foreign spouse. In rural areas, where childbirth is low, international marriages have become so common, it is virtually impossible to maintain a community let alone families if not for foreign wives. Nevertheless, Korean society retains strong prejudice against foreign wives because of Koreans’ value on pure bloodline. A survey on multicultural families conducted by the Health, Welfare and Family Affairs Ministry found that 34.8 percent of foreign wives said they experienced discrimination because they are foreigners.

International marriage is expected to increase due to Korean women’s reluctance to marry men in rural areas and the prevailing trend of globalization and rising multiculturalism. If Koreans cannot open their minds to allow foreign immigrants to settle in their society, this country will inevitably face an unstable future. A society that closes itself to multicultural families and foreigners also does not live up to the national dignity of Korea, an economic powerhouse. Koreans must exercise the best of manners when bringing in foreign brides, and treat them as wives and daughters-in-law the same way they do for Koreans.

Editorial Writer Kwon Sun-taek (maypole@donga.com)