Fri, May 16, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Seoul taking steps to regulate cross-cultural marriages


South Korea will launch a crackdown on matchmaking agencies that use racial stereotypes or distorted information to help Koreans find foreign brides, officials said on Wednesday.

The number of international marriages in South Korea is soaring, but more are ending in divorce and there have been cases of suicide and spousal abuse.

The crackdown will begin on June 15 when a new law on international marriages goes into force, the welfare ministry said. It sets a maximum prison term of two years or fines of up to 10 million won (US$9,580) for matchmaking firms that breach the new rules.

Agencies will have to register and should have properly trained staff and respect local laws.

Ministry officials say some matchmakers have spread false information about spouses or about married life in South Korea, causing subsequent problems.

“The new law will help foreign spouses get better information about their life here before and after marriage,” said Lee Keum-sun, a welfare ministry official.

The crackdown is part of a broader program to help foreign brides settle in South Korea where 11 percent of marriages were interracial last year, Lee said. Among farmers and fishermen the rate reached 40 percent last year.

Bachelors, especially in rural areas, have turned to China, Mongolia and Southeast Asian countries to find brides. Official data showed China is the favorite, with the number of South Korean men marrying Chinese girls or ethnic Koreans from China standing at 14,526 last year. Vietnam was the second with 6,611.

Activists say that because of false advertising some foreign brides end up living with spouses who have few assets or who are ill, alcoholic or of difficult character.

A 2005 study by the welfare ministry showed that 14 percent of 945 migrant wives surveyed said their husbands had beaten them.

The ministry has already dispatched two officials to the Philippines and Vietnam to advise women wishing to marry South Koreans.

Eighty government-administered centers will be established to educate foreign spouses on language, culture and family life and teach them occupational skills.

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