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Behind the Headlines: APA News Blog

Academic Version: Applying my personal experiences and academic research as a professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies to provide a more complete understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues and current events related to American race relations, and Asia/Asian America in particular.

Plain English: Trying to put my Ph.D. to good use.

February 25, 2007

Written by C.N.

Marriage Tours Match Korean Men & Vietnamese Women

Recently, there have been several articles in the news about different Asian countries pledging closer ties with each other and to promote more cross-cultural interactions. But I’m not sure if this is what they generally had in mind — more South Korean men have been using marriage brokers to find wives in Viet Nam — they travel to Viet Nam to pick out their wife, marry and honeymoon there, then return with their new wife to South Korea:

More and more South Korean men are finding wives outside of South Korea, where a surplus of bachelors, a lack of marriageable Korean partners and the rising social status of women have combined to shrink the domestic market for the marriage-minded male. Bachelors in China, India and other Asian nations, where the traditional preference for sons has created a disproportionate number of men now fighting over a smaller pool of women, are facing the same problem. . . .

Now, that industry is seizing on an increasingly globalized marriage market and sending comparatively affluent Korean bachelors searching for brides in the poorer corners of China and Southeast and Central Asia. The marriage tours are fueling an explosive growth in marriages to foreigners in South Korea, a country whose ethnic homogeneity lies at the core of its self-identity. In 2005, marriages to foreigners accounted for 14 percent of all marriages in South Korea, up from 4 percent in 2000. . . .

Critics say the business demeans and takes advantage of poor women. But brokers say they are merely matching the needs of Korean men and foreign women seeking better lives. . . . Both Ms. Vien and Ms. Thuy had friends who had married Korean men and lived, happily it seemed, in South Korea.

Like many Vietnamese, they were also avid fans of Korean television shows and movies, the so-called Korean Wave of pop culture that has swept all of Asia since the late 1990s. The Korean Wave has transformed South Korea’s image in the region, presenting the country as having successfully balanced tradition and modernity, a place that produces coveted Samsung cellphones and cherishes family ties.

The article goes on to describe a typical marriage brokering process between a Korean groom and his much younger Vietnamese bride. To be honest, I’m not sure what to make of this. On the one hand, it’s probably true that demographics don’t lie — Korean men have fewer choices these days in terms of the size of the spouse pool in Korea, and that many of these Vietnamese women would probably have a “materialistically” better life in Korea compared with staying in Viet Nam.

On the other hand, there have been and still continue to be documented instances of fraud and spousal abuse regarding such “brokered” (we would probably also include “mail order” types as well) marriages in regard to American men marrying Russians or Asians, or Asian men marrying other Asian women, etc.

Ultimately, I don’t have a problem with these kinds of brokered marriages if there are proper safeguards in place — psychological tests for the men or at the very least, criminal background checks and other forms of full disclosure so that the women know exactly what they’re getting into, and have a reasonably easy means of terminating the marriage if they’re unsatisfied.

As someone who’s married inter-ethnically myself, I support efforts to promote more cross-ethnic and cross-cultural ties and relationships between different Asian ethnic groups. We just need to make sure that everybody is on the same page to ensure that this type of process goes smoothly and happily.

Author Citation

Copyright © 2001- by C.N. Le. Some rights reserved. Creative Commons License

Suggested reference: Le, C.N. . "Marriage Tours Match Korean Men & Vietnamese Women" Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <> ().

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