세잔, one of the many sites introducing Korean men to Cambodian women.
This story is about a week old now, but it's an important addition to my "international marriage" category. Cambodia has temporarily put a stop to marriages between its women and South Korean men over concerns of human trafficking and marriage broker trade thriving in spite of rules in place to stop it. Here's the Phnom Penh Post:
CAMBODIA has temporarily banned marriages between local women and South Korean men after officials broke up a human trafficking ring designed to facilitate such unions, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said Sunday.
Koy Kuong said a woman had been convicted on March 3 of recruiting 25 girls from rural areas and arranging for them to be married off to South Korean men for a US$100 fee.
Accepting a commission to facilitate a marriage is illegal, he said, adding that the convicted marriage broker is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence, and that the South Korean embassy in Phnom Penh had been notified on March 5 of the temporary marriage ban.
The ban will eventually be lifted, though not before the government puts in place an effective screening mechanism to prevent cases of trafficking, Koy Kuong said.
. . .
In March 2008, Cambodia imposed an eight-month ban on all foreign marriages to combat human trafficking after the release of an IOM report that found that as many as 1,759 marriage visas were issued to Cambodians by South Korea in 2007, up from only 72 in 2004.
Despite the 2008 ban, the number of Cambodian women marrying South Korean men rose from 551 in 2008 to 1,372 last year, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.
There have been a few editorials on the topic in Korea's English-language press. From the Dong-a Ilbo:
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.
That's titled "Cambodian Ban on Int'l Marriage," but the Korean-language version from whence it comes is called "Room Salon Style International Marriage" after the entertainment rooms where women serve and, um, "serve" men, recently in the news because of the questions posed earlier in the month by a foreign journalist to the Finance Minister about these parlors vis-a-vis women in the workplace.
The Korea Herald has one that a, um, wider look at the issue, putting blame on Cambodia as well:
We hope Phnom Penh will soon return things to normal while we wonder how serious the crime is and at which end of the problem is most serious.
Just before this story broke the Herald ran atop its page an article saying "Foreign wives happy with life in Korea," a piece that contradicts a lot of what we've read before. The editorial continues:
Cambodians ranked after Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipinos and Japanese last year. International marriages will continue to grow in Korea in the years ahead but any sudden ban from a foreign government for unsavory reasons such as human trafficking allegations will threaten the balanced growth of multicultural families in this country. Human trafficking is a most vicious crime and the governments involved should try their utmost in order to end it completely.
Chosun Ilbo columnist Oh Tae-jin has some powerful words:
Now Phnom Penh has temporarily banned marriages between Korean men and Cambodian women. Unlike the steps it took in 2008, the latest measure affects only Korean men. The Cambodian government informed the Korean Embassy there that the steps were designed to "prevent the trafficking of women." It remains to be seen how much longer the Korean government intends to ignore these ugly practices that are tarnishing Korea's image and making Southeast Asians cringe at the sight of Koreans.
You'll find more links and information in the other posts in the "International marriage" category, and for the sake of brevity I won't bring them all out again here.
A sign saying Vietnamese women won't run away, hanging in Jeonju.
A decent overview of international marriages is found in the post "Government estimates 50% of rural Korean children will be biracial in 2020," both because of all the foreigners coming in and the Koreans moving out. That post links to a lengthy New York Times article about the marriage broker business in Vietnam. Naver will turn up loads of links for international marriage brokers; I've been enjoying reading a few, including this page about selling points of Vietnamese women, pardon the turn of phrase. (You keyboard warriors can relax, I can find examples from back home on my own, thanks.) You might also like to read Gusts of Popular Feeling's "Vietnam, Korea's 'womb colony'?"
I'll write again that I don't object to these marriages out of hand. Many countries, Korea included, have a history of blind dates and arranged marriages, even today, and this is really no different. I don't think a man being a farmer, or middle-aged, or mentally or physically disabled ought to be denied a chance at marriage, and I don't think there's anything immediately wrong with looking overseas for a wife if you can't find one at home. I don't think it's appropriate to always treat these young women as victims, in spite of the title I gave this post, because it's not as if they aren't marrying for money or for the chance to live the "Korean Dream," badly misinformed though it is. I don't buy into the laughable assertion that South Korea is now "multicultural" because it finds itself stuck with a generation of half-Korean kids, but I recognize that Korea has taken steps to help these women adjust to the country and culture. The women it can find, I mean, so that doesn't include those their husbands don't permit to leave the house.
All that said, it's unfortunate that these young women are sold to men twice their age and half their IQ to help the country's low birthrate and to repopulate the rural counties. Guess the idea to abort all those fetuses and kill those baby girls wasn't so smart after all. The local papers can write all the articles they want about how the "Korean Wave" is washing over Southeast Asia, but there's going to be problems in a generation or so when these poorer countries become economically stronger, and can do something about Asia's self-proclaimed "hub" buying and abusing its young women. Korea talks a lot about contributing more to less-fortunate countries, in part as repayment for all the aide it received to allow it to become, what, the eighth-biggest economy in the world over two generations. More than simply giving money, though, as a way to boost it's own national image, perhaps some reflection on the responsibilities the strong have for the weak. I'm pleased to see Cambodia standing up for its citizens,