Friday, March 26, 2010

Cambodia stops bride trade with South Korea.

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,


Chris in South Korea said...

It's a little ironic that Korea wants to add to the birthdate when they can barely give the locals reason to, um, do it like they do on the Discovery channel.... Sorry to use such an old reference, but the point remains. Fix the problem on the inside then work your way out...

fattycat said...

"Foreign spouses expressed overall satisfaction with their life in Korea, with 57 percent of the wives and 53.8 percent of the husbands showing high contentment." I dont think that is exactly the best numbers to suggest that these wives are happy with their life in Korea.

btw, I dont know how new this news is. This summer when we were in Cambodia we read several articles saying that marriages between Cambodian women and Korean men (only Koreans) had been banned. That and how Korea had a huge mob presence there and how Koreans were helping to build new resources like roads and then charging people to use them and how Korean missionaries had built a huge churches in traditional villages and how Koreans were only there for prostitution and how disrespectful Koreans in their large tour groups were etc etc etc. Long story short, Cambodian locals didnt seem to happy with all the Koreans there.

1994 said...

The 18 year Khmer woman who fatally stabbed her abusive husband is still in jail in Korea, I think. How much time did she get?

Mike said...

Actually Brian, Korea is the 15th largest economy in the world if you are only counting countries. California actually has a GDP almost double that of South Korea.

joy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
joy said...

California is broken, and about to file bk.

Chris said...

I remember an article from one of the Korean English newspapers which had a poll stating something like 8 out of 10 foreing women would never marry a Korean man. It's from the Korean media, so I don't know how reliable the info actually is afterall.

I spent quite a bit of time in Cambodia and the locals I talked to did not like the resident Koreans. After some of the things saw, I don't blame them.

I heard last year that California may go belly up. That was last year, but it still hasn't happened, no doubt to the chagrin of many USA haters. The thing is, California is still the 9th largest economy in the world despite that fact and Korea is still 15th. Simply get over it.

Brian said...

Chris, here's the thing you're talking about:

Kya said...

I highly doubt the results of that foreign spouses survey. I was one of the wives they surveyed. This ajumma came to our house one day with a survey several pages long. She didn't have an English version with her, so my husband helped me fill it out. She sat there watching, discussing or arguing with every response I gave. If I put something she didn't like, she would give me a big "aaiigo" of disapproval and tell me why foreigners have it really good in Korea and that I didn't know what I was talking about.

Now my husband and I are very honest with each other, so I didn't feel the need to lie on any of the answers (although I did feel a little pressure to answer more positively on some), but then again I wasn't purchased through a "marriage agency". I can imagine how women from impoverished countries, sold into what is often no more than slavery, being beaten and ordered around by their husbands and in-laws, would feel a lot more pressure to give answers that wouldn't get them into trouble. I'm sure most of them are surveyed with their husband or mother-in-law in the room, watching them. Unless they could speak Korean really well, chances are they wouldn't have even understood why they were being questioned. As if they're going to answer honestly under those circumstances. How could the survey results possibly be valid?

Peter said...

I agree that the women involved in overseas marriage deals should not automatically be regarded as victims in every case. But in this case, as the Cambodian article points out, the convicted marriage broker had been recruiting girls "from rural areas". In general, these girls probably have little or no formal education, and little or no reliable knowledge of what life is like outside Cambodia. If this is the case, then they're not in any position to make an informed decision about overseas marriage, and certainly are being taken advantage of and victimized. I think that these particular women are being treated as goods to be bought and sold, and not as a human being entering into a financial arrangement with another human being.

Your comment confirms my assumption that those statistics are complete bunk.

Darth Babaganoosh said...

If I put something she didn't like, she would give me a big "aaiigo" of disapproval and tell me why foreigners have it really good in Korea and that I didn't know what I was talking about.

The first time she said that, I'd give her the hairy eyeball. The second, I'd tell her to shove her survey and show her the door.

Roman Guy said...

Greetings from Phnom Penh. I will be in Seoul March 31 for two days if you want to continue this discussion...

I am a middle-aged male who taught English in Cambodia off and on since 1994. Any readers who are considering leaving Korea for Cambodia's English schools (pros and cons) is free to contact me at my fastly-piling up spam mailbox: Put CAMBO in title so I know it's not a penis-enlargement ad, OK?

Anyway, I have never married a Cambodian woman for several reasons, including that I am not the marrying kind (straight but hate commitments). 'It's cheaper to pay for it', as the saying goes. Ask any divorced man.

However, I do have some observations based on an unsuccessful here Engineer British friend leaving Cambodia and his gf moving onto a more marriagable (younger, wealthier, more established) Korean man.

In short: I say, all power to both of them, as long as it is voluntary, consensual, volitional etc. If they both get what they want how is it any of our business?

BTW, on a marginally related subject, Phnom Penh is currently experiencing a crackdown on sex for sale. This country has gone from wide open, so to speak, market in the nineties (with concommitant abuses, although grossly exagerrated in the media, so much so that I refuse to watch commercial-sponsored Anglo TV news anymore) to a 1950s mentality of 'protecting women's purity'. It's no longer common sense. And I suggest that it doesn't protect women and children. Anti-teen sex and anti-prostitution law enforcement simply enforces the mentality of people (daughters, wives etc) as property.

But back to pre-tangent. Koreans here are good catches. They are fellow Asians, and they pay well (either in marriage or in massage parlours [currently closed due to Prime Minister Hun Sen's verbal decree prior to int'l donor's conference).

What is ideal is not the correct question to be asked. It is, given the current reality, is it a sensible choice? Personally, I think Korean women are just jealous.

But I am a anarchist-libertarian, so perhaps my views are not popular.

BTW, I am looking for a company in Seoul to retrieve the video data from my Samsung camcorder's internal memory. Any idea what blog I should visit to see discussions on electronics repairs for quickly passing foreigners?

Roman Guy said...

And there's more...

The press loves to report scandals and violence. Women as victims only of course. You never read of men being ripped off (as if that is not common) but only the worst examples of murder and rape.

Use common sense. Most international marriages are not between Korean gangsters who beat their wives. It's a silly assertion made to sell newspapers.