Sun, Aug 19, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Vietnam to set up overseas marriage information centers

AFP , HANOI

Vietnam's women's union plans to set up 40 information centers to teach prospective brides about the risks of overseas marriages arranged via illegal match-makers, state media said yesterday.

Concern over the practice of Vietnamese women -- most from poor backgrounds -- wedding wealthy foreigners through illegal brokers heightened after the death of one bride in the home of her South Korean husband.

She was found with 18 broken ribs earlier this month. Police arrested her husband.

Excerpts from a letter kept by the woman, a former rice farmer and factory worker, describing her sadness and loneliness in South Korea were published across the Vietnamese media.

The women's association plans to set up the information and legal advice centers countrywide at a cost of US$3.5 million, the state-run Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

The project -- to be run with the Vietnam Culture and Women's Center in South Korea -- is expected to support nine similar existing facilities and serve about 15,000 women over the next five years, VNA reported.

Vietnam has become a popular destination for bachelors from South Korea and other Asian countries searching for wives, often on week-long arranged trips that include medical checkups, visa procedures and speedy honeymoons.

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The commercial match-making operations have stirred anger amid reports of potential brides being paraded and humiliated before their suitors, and of isolation and abuse suffered by many women in their new home countries.

The head of a parliamentary committee for social issues, Truong Thi Mai, said Vietnam should consider changing rules on foreign marriage.

According to the South Korean National Statistical Office, the number of Vietnamese brides in South Korea totalled over 10,000 last year, up 74 percent from the previous year, with most married to farmers and fishermen.

In South Korea, thousands of agencies now offer marriage tours to China, Vietnam and other Asian countries, often subsidized by rural authorities battling declining populations.

The international marriage market has been fuelled by a preference for sons in parts of Asia, exacerbated by technology that allows pregnant women to screen the sex of their baby, which has left proportionally more bachelors fighting over fewer women.

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