By Rose Kwak
In South Korea marriage is not always about love, but can also be about fulfilling expectations, taking a wife to help care for aging parents, and finding a husband who is a good earner.
With so many Korean women moving to big cities – plus a shortage of women in some age groups in Korea – Korean rural men have been turning to marriage brokers to find wives from outside Korea — in countries like China, Cambodia and Vietnam. It’s supposed to be a win win – middle aged bachelors find wives, and low income women move to a country where they have a shot at a better future.
But reports are increasing about lots of shady match making services, or marriage brokers.
This comes at a time when many Korean men are struggling to find Korean brides due to either physical disabilities or low incomes. But as appealing as getting young brides may seem, many of these marriages turn out to be scams and have high divorce rates.
As of 2012, around 25 percent of men who pursued international marriages went through brokers, according to a government report, which also found that half of the divorced Korean men who married foreign wives claimed their wives ran away from home.
The biggest problem with using matchmaking agencies stems from the fact that many of these brokers are scammers who just want to take people’s money but have no interest in helping to make matches that would create happy marriages, according to reports.
In one man’s case, he filled out paperwork that included his monthly income and his lifestyle and married a woman from Uzbekistan. But the marriage plunged into disaster within three months. He found out that the broker never gave the paperwork to the bride-to-be. The broker had lied to both husband and wife, telling the wife that her Korean husband would buy her a house and telling husband that the wife was from a wealthy family.
When the woman discovered the truth — that her husband could not afford to buy her a house — she demanded to go back to Uzbekistan, slitting her wrist in front of his family. She did go back to Uzbekistan, and told him she was pregnant with his child. Ever since, the man has been sending child support.
Recently, a Korean court ruled in favor of a Chinese woman who divorced her husband after the man had allegedly physically abused the woman — who put up with it so she could remain in Korea and become a naturalized citizen.
The court ruled that “the marriage broke down because of the husband’s constant abuse” and that “in accordance with the naturalization law, a foreigner must have an address in Korea for five years or more to apply for naturalization” and that she had fulfilled the five years.
The case shed light into the possibility of many foreign brides marrying Korean men in hopes of escaping poverty and finding a home in South Korea by becoming naturalized.
It also begs the question of how many women are taking abuse for years just to fulfill the legal requirements for becoming a Korean citizen, in a bid to escape the grinding poverty and hopelessness in their home countries.
In pursuit of finding happiness through marriage, many end up in miserable situation through marriages arranged by brokers.
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