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Jul 27, 2019 / 17:14

S. Korea, Vietnam hold consular talks to prevent violence against Vietnamese wives

The measures become more necessary as the number of Vietnamese women is largest in transnational marriages in South Korea.

Diplomats from South Korea and Vietnam have gathered to discuss measures aimed at preventing violence in transnational marriages following a number of cases against Vietnamese wives recently. 
Vietnamese and South Korean officials at the meeting in Da Nang on July 25. Photo: Yonhap/South Korean Foreign Ministry
Vietnamese and South Korean officials at the meeting in Da Nang on July 25. Photo: Yonhap/South Korean Foreign Ministry
The meeting held in Vietnam’s central coastal city of Da Nang on July 25 marked the participation of South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister for Overseas Koreans and Consular Affairs Lee Sang-jin and Vu Viet Anh, director general of the Vietnamese foreign ministry's Consular Department, according to S. Korea’s Foreign Ministry.

The meeting came weeks after a South Korean man was arrested for violently assaulting his Vietnamese wife at their residence in Yeongam, South Jeolla Province, KBS reported.

A public outcry erupted early this month after the release on social media of a video clip that showed a Korean husband assaulting his Vietnamese wife in the presence of their two-year-old child during a more than three-hour ordeal at their home, Yonhap reported.

The wife, who suffered broken ribs, has been moved to a women’s shelter. On his arrest, the man, 36, told police he hit his wife because she did not speak fluent Korean.

The diplomats agreed to work together to come up with measures to prevent the recidivism of similar incidents and foster a healthy culture regarding international marriage.

“The two sides agreed to make mutual efforts to prevent a recurrence of such an assault case against a Vietnamese immigrant in South Korea, and to cultivate a sound culture of international marriage,” the foreign ministry said in a press release.

At the meeting, the two sides also discussed bilateral cooperation over a plan to open a consulate general in Da Nang and ways to better support young Koreans studying in Vietnam and reduce the number of illegal immigrants in Korea.

Domestic violence becomes thorny among inter-ethnic marriages in South Korea

Illustrative photo
Illustrative photo
Vietnamese women are the second largest group of foreign wives in Korea. Vietnamese wives represent 29.4% of all foreign wives in Korea between 2006 and 2014. They also represent almost 50% of total transnational marriages of rural Korean men, Ph.D Suyeon Park cited Statistics Korea.

In 2018, South Korea reported 22,698 international marriages, up 8.9% on year. The largest portion of foreign spouses came from Vietnam, followed by China, according to Statistics Korea.

Over the past years, the number of international marriages has increased, accounting for 7%-10% of all marriages in South Korea.

However, domestic violence remains the pressing problem in such marriages. 

As of this month, a total 21 deaths of migrant women by domestic violence have ever been recorded here, Koreaherald cited the Korea Women Migrants Human Rights Center. 

“Fundamentally, an unequal relationship based on gender inequality in Korean society is a problem behind domestic violence against marriage migrants,” said Kang Hye-sook, co-head of Korea Women Migrants Human Rights Center. 

“Also, the institutions that restrict marriage migrants from standing on their own feet in Korea and Koreans’ tendency to look down on and discriminate against foreigners from poorer countries are contributing to the problem,” she said.

Most Korean men married to foreign women have paid fees to an international matchmaking agency, which leads to a perception that the woman is the man’s property rather than a human being, Kang pointed out.

“Most of the marriage migrants don’t leave the abusive relationship and don’t file complaints when they are abused, for the sake of their children,” said Goh Ji-woon, a lawyer from Immigrants Advocacy Center Gamdong. 

They fear they may lose custody of their children to their Korean spouses and may not be able to see the children, as courts tend to award custody to Korean spouses in divorce proceedings, she said, adding that some abusive husbands blackmail their foreign spouses with their power to extend the spouse’s stay in the country.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination also highlighted the lack of safeguards for the rights of marriage migrants in Korea and their restricted access to Korean nationality.

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