Monday, May 9, 2011

Korean Foreign Brides

Korea, in its text books for grammar school  children, describes the country as racially homogeneous.  This is disputed by many, even historically, but the emphasis on this homogeneity is done with eyes on the North and future unification. The immigrant's  transition to a new life in Korea is made difficult by  this  reference to  their Korean oneness.

A religious sister in this month's Kyeongyang  Catholic magazine revisits the issue of  foreign brides in Korea.  These young women have come to Korea for marriage. This started back in 1970 with the importing of foreign labor. In 1990 the Unification Church, with its international marriage ceremonies ,turned the attention of the people to these marriages. Because of the unequal development of the farming and fishing parts of the country, importing of brides became a part of life. It started with the ethnic Koreans from China, and then the Chinese, the Vietnamese, the Mongolians, among others. With the lucrative possibilities of this new trade, business enterprises got involved and this has increased the numbers and the problems.There are now over 130,000 foreign brides in Korea. 

The sister mentions that even in the best of marriages there are difficulties of personality, environment, and thinking, which couples try hard to overcome. With international marriages they have to overcome also the problem of language and culture, made worse by the marriage brokers who  are interested only in being paid for their services.

In their advertising, these marriage brokers emphasize the obedience and faithfulness of the foreign brides, and use fantasy to entice the Korean men with sexual and  racial stereotypes. The men, for the most part, feel that because they have paid money to buy these women, they have earned the right to consider them their possession. 

There have been many sad stories of some of these marriages in our society. These women, unlike the men, have their backgrounds in another culture, and will be giving birth to second generation Koreans with a new way of being Korean. The ministry of health and welfare has reported that half of these couples live in poverty.

At present, 2.5 percent of the population is from another culture.  Koreans  are not conscious of this reality because of the  racially homogeneous and "pure blood line" thinking handed down from the past. This is making these new immigrants the newly alienated in society.

The sister ends the article by telling us that plant life needs only  0.2 percent of the sun's energy to live. Humans, she says, need just 0.2 percent of a dream to live. What is this dream?  She says it is hope. That is why these women came to Korea. The time that they will be living in Korea is longer than the life they lived in the country of birth. And the reason that we want them to realize their dream  is that they will be mothers in Korea.


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