Eight out of 100 Korean males married foreign women last year, according to data from the Korea National Statistics Office. In rural areas, up to 40 percent of marriages involved an international bride.
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The pressures foreign wives once faced to quickly assimilate into the domestic culture and function as a Korean family member are slowly diminishing in some homes.
“It’ll always be a given that foreign brides are a substitute for Korean wives in these marriages,” admits Kang Seong-Euy, secretary-general of the Women Migrants Human Rights Center in Korea, a watchdog for migrant women.
But slowly more men are starting to think outside their culture and embracing their differences from their partners. For example, a lot of them are considering migrating to their wife’s country and settling down there after they retire."
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The ministry recently changed the official classification of marriages between Korean men and foreign women on all government releases and manuals from “a family of female marriage immigrants” to “a multicultural family.” Through this move, it hopes to shift the focus from the migrant’s adaptation to Korea to an international understanding.
Earlier this year, the government began providing free online language classes for Koreans married to foreigners. Lessons are available in English, Vietnamese, Japanese, Mongolian, Thai and Chinese.
For years, South Koreans have clung to the myth of racial homogeneity. The idea was evident in common Korean expressions like danil minjok, or “a unitary race” sharing the blood of one ancestor, Dangun, who founded Gojoseon (2333 B.C.-108 B.C.).
In a country with such strong ethnic sentiment, mixed-race children were constant victims of ridicule and prejudice until the issue was highlighted by celebrities like Hines Ward, a Korean-American NFL player.
Confusion about the meaning of a multicultural society is still prevalent here. But government policies, which used to view immigration through marriage merely as a strategy to counter the country’s aging society and declining birthrates, are slowly starting to take a new approach.
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Included in the recently published manual for partners of migrant women released by the Multicultural Family Support Center - a department within the ministry - is information on eating habits, family values, community awareness, honorifics and the roles of parenting in the home countries of many foreign wives, including Mongolia, Vietnam and Uzbekistan.
Shifting attitudes toward foreigners and international marriages notwithstanding, and attitudes are shifting and progressing, multicultural marriages like this are generally unhappy ones. Not surprising, considering that thousands of women are essentially imported to Korea every year to marry men who are otherwise unable to find spouses, men who often live in rural areas, are past the usual marrying age, are handicapped, or a combination of the above. There was a memorable survey done a couple of years ago that said 80% of foreign women wouldn't marry Korean men again if they had the choice.
More than half of foreigners marrying Koreans said they would not marry Koreans again if they were to separate with their spouses, a survey showed Monday.
The Corea Image Communication Institute (CICI) reported that 52 percent of foreign nationals married to Koreans have no intention of marring a Korean again if they were given a second chance.
The report is based on a survey of 100 foreign spouses living here in South Korea or abroad.
About 80 percent of the female respondents said they would not marry a Korean man for a second time, while 58 percent of males said they would marry a Korean woman again.
Lack of dialogue, excessive interference of in-law family members in house affairs, indifference towards housework and late homecomings were among the main complaints of foreign spouses.
Another article here. Interestingly, 40% of the respondants were from European countries, compared to 30% from other Asian ones.
The JI article goes on to say that one out of four foreign women married to Korean men in Jeollanam-do have experienced physical or verbal abuse from their spouses, and that 10% of foreign brides were abused regularly. According to the article again some 7.1% of divorces in Korea last year were between multicultural couples, and an earlier article said that 3,665 of these marriages ended in divorce in 2007. Browse the rest of the "International marriage" category for more links and more anecdotes. This post sums stuff up pretty well.
Ms. Parker told me she found a copy of a guidebook, in English, for foreign brides marrying Korean men, and I'm pretty sure I found it at some point, but I don't know where the link is anymore. Anyone have it?