Thursday, September 1, 2011

Foreign Brides Living in a Foreign Culture

Society faces grave problems, asserts a priest working with immigrants in his diocese, because of the large number of women entering Korea for marriage. Since the year 2000, and particularly in 2002 with the joint hosting of the World Cup matches by Korea and Japan, there has been an increase of 'international marriages'.

Writing for the Catholic paper  the priest lays out three conditions the Church views as necessary for  marriage: love, consent, and contract  He feels that the first two conditions are either weak or missing in most of these marriages, giving rise to many of the problems. But even when all three conditions are present, many of the marriages end in divorce. How much more is this the case, says the priest, when these marriages lack the necessary love and consent of the partners. It is during his work in counseling those in such marriages that he often finds himself at a loss for words and frustrated.

One day a Filipina married to a Korean came to see him. She and her husband were not able to agree about her proper duties as a wife and mistress of the house, so she left him, with no intention of going back. The priest told her to return, for he knew that if she did not, her situation would get much worse. She replied that living with him was little better than being a slave, and that it would be far better to go  back to the Philippines, and be free. The priest understood her situation and no longer urged her to return home to her Korean husband, knowing that without equality in marriage, there is little chance for happiness in such a marriage.    

Another women left her husband after one week, seeing no hope that the relationship would improve. In the beginning they had a good relationship, she said, but because of his increasingly demanding behavior she was not able to continue living with him. When the priest asked why she got married, she explained that being the oldest daughter of an extremely poor family, she felt she needed to support them. 

The priest cited the importance of understanding the role culture plays in adding to the problem.  Because of the cultural differences of marriage partners, the three conditions for marriage are often missing. To illustrate the point, the priest recalls the woman who made her husband some Philippine chopsuey, only to hear angry abuse coming her way after he tasted her version of the dish.  We may laugh at this, and think it's a small matter because most couples share the same cultural likes and dislikes,  but it's not a laughing matter to couples who have to live in a home divided by two different cultures.

Because society does not show much concern for the plight of the 'foreign bride' in these international marriages, the priest would like to see someone take a maternal interest in these women, mentoring them, offering advice when necessary. He suggested that this could be done by setting up a subcommittee in the parish councils that would have these women as their sole responsibility.

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