If you ever read English-language Korean news sites, you will often see stories like “Forcing Korean norms puts pregnant immigrants at risk” and other articles about immigrant-spouse treatment is in this country.
If you were unaware, in Korea, many men, especially those with no college education, farmers, skilled workers, construction, etc, often have difficulty finding wives due to their rank being so low in the marriage food chain. Women only want men with a college education , a car, a good job, and some other requirements. So these men have been “forced” to find wives outside the country. There are marriage agencies in Korea that will pair one of these men up with a wife of a foreign nationality, almost always Vietnamese, Thai, Philippino, or another Southeast Asian country. These countries are usually economically less off than Korea and the people feel as though their lives will be better if they come to Korea and marry one of these men. Does this sound reminiscent of the Russian mail-order brides? It’s almost exactly the same, except with Southeast Asians instead.
Men go to an agency, look through their database, pick someone that looks nice, go to that country to meet her, get married after that meeting, then bring her home to live with him and his family.
It has been in the news that the rate of divorce and the rate of reports of abuse and such has been on the rise due to a lack of understanding of culture, and among other things. Many women are abused by their Korean husbands, or the women are unhappy in their marriage and run away. I knew someone that this has happened to. She left behind two children with the Korean man and went back to her native country because she was unhappy.
Anyway, the Korean government is very frustrated with this situation. In an already xenophobic country, this ordeal exacerbates many beliefs about foreigners. So the government has tried to solve this issue by forcing immigrant wives into Korean cultural programs, where they learn about Korean culture, learn some of the Korean language, and other important information on life in Korea.
This is necessary for the woman and I understand this. But there isn’t anything about the husband getting training or anything about the wife’s culture and language. Marriage is a 2-way street and it seems they expect these women to give up there culture and be good Korean wives. And they wonder why the divorce rate, especially among international marriages, is rising. I doubt it will ever truly go down until both parties learn about each other’s culture and are mindful and respectful of them.
Perhaps this is just the American in me speaking. But if Korea is going to model themselves after America, as they claim to love us so much, they have a long way to go if they are going to be pushy about it. America is not a saint either, but at least we allow each person to practice their culture freely without imposition. Retaining a cultural identity is important, whether it’s your home country or host country. But in all cases, respect is always of the utmost importance.