As the number of international marriages continues to rise, there is no shortage of stories painting multiculturalism in a positive light. But one such marriage has left a woman fighting for custody of her son in a trend of marital deception that appears to be growing.
The woman, who asked to be identified only as Oh, 38, is part of an Internet group with thousands of members who have suffered as a result of marriages with Pakistani and Bangladeshi men. The Korean women writing there have shared stories of being tricked into marriages with migrant workers from the two countries as well as verbal and physical abuse.
Needless to say, it’s all TV’s fault:
“There are so many women who have similar stories as mine. Most of us were hesitant to marry a migrant worker, but all of the TV shows and news stories beautifying multiculturalism and the stories of multicultural families living happily in Korea comforted us,” Oh said. “But now, all of us are suffering from broken marriages. I just don’t want to see any more victims like myself.”
Your Uncle Marmot is not going to touch this.
And don’t blame me. Blame Gypsy Scholar. I read it on his blog first.
Earlier in the month, online daily eToday looked at how even as Korean society grows more multicultural, Korean women married to foreign dudes are still being ostracized (great graphic, BTW). They talked to one woman who just broke up with her American boyfriend: the relationship was fine, but she got tired of people around her asking her questions (“How could you go out when you can’t communicate? How’s he in bed?) and thinking she’s a slut. They also talked to another woman who married a Thai man she met while she was studying abroad. He’s an educated man, good-looking and capable, but people still think he’s a guest worker. Moreover, because he’s neither a “marriage immigrant” or a Korean national, they can’t can’t the government support offered other multicultural families.
The paper notes that while attitudes towards international marriages and relationships are turning towards the better due to globalization, women stll avoid making public relationships with foreign men due to lingering social prejudices.
They asked women with foreign husbands or boyfriends why it seemed only Korean women still faced difficulties with international relationships. Their responses?
- The stigma of the yang gongju—the Korean women who went about with American servicemen in the 1960s and 1970s—continues to live on. The woman who just broke up with her American boyfriend cited this as the reason, saying that people carefully but continuously kept asking her questions about their sex life, questions that nobody would ask if her boyfriend were Korean. The paper noted you could easily find hateful comments or posts about women dating foreigners on portal sites.
- Pure blood and parental opposition. The parents of Mrs. A, who is married to a Canadian of Chinese descent, wouldn’t meet her husband while they were still going out. Only after he proposed did they relent and meet him. In Korea, where ideas about “pure blood” still run strong, women who date foreigners are branded. Strong parental opposition to their daughters dating foreigners is connected to this. Moreover, foreign husbands without Korean blood are thoroughly relegated to non-mainstreem status in Korean society. In the case of the woman who married the Thai dude, they left Korea to live in Thailand due to the discrimination she witnessed her then-boyfriend take. He spoke perfect English, and spoke Chinese, Thai and Korean, but could find no work in Korea, and was sometimes treated unkindly because he was Thai.
- Cultural tensions. Mr. B, a university English instructor who married a Korean women, said he felt when he was dating his wife in Korea, Koreans they met would force Korean culture on him. For example, in America, squid is rarely eaten, and there are few dishes with fish with heads still attached. When they went out to eat in Korea, however, Koreans would not respect these cultural differences and forced him to eat unfamiliar dishes, telling him they were good for him and delicious. He wanted to actively learn and exerience the culture of Korea, the land of the woman he loved. He was perplexed, however, at being forced to chose between his tastes and cultural sensibilities and those of Korea. Korean women with foreign boyfriends are apparently sick of this, too, having to hear people bitch about “Korean identity” when they try to protect their boyfriends from this.
- Only Korean men are supposed to marry foreigners.
The problem is, according to the paper, that these attitudes are deeply rooted in society. You can easily see this in the Multicultural Family Support Law, which defines multicultural families as “marriage immigrants and family members who have acquired Korean citizenship.” Korean women who marry foreign men resident in Korea are not included.