Home > Migrants, Trafficking of Persons, Women's Rights > Til death do we part. Marriage after 10 days, Murdered after 8.

Til death do we part. Marriage after 10 days, Murdered after 8.

July 25, 2010

By Mirae Kang

On July 8 Thach Thi Hoang Ngoc, a young 20-year-old bride, was killed by her husband in the port city of Busan. Since being united with her husband, she was beaten and stabbed in the stomach after a quarrel. Ngoc’s 47-year-old husband, Kim turned himself in while confessing of hearing a ghost telling him to kill his wife.

Ngoc, seeking her “Korean Dream” was married to Kim within ten days in January through an international marriage agency but had to wait to receive her visa. Prior to their marriage, Kim had been treated for mental illness 57 times over the past 8 years. The lack of information provided to Ngoc on Kim’s mental condition has caused concern.

The National Human Rights Commission said in a statement that, “the government should thoroughly investigate the cause of the case of the Vietnamese woman and prevent such incidents that infringe upon marriage migrants’ rights,” noting it will also join efforts to reform the system, according to Yonhap News.

The rising social issues of international marriage and migrant workers have been a relatively recent issue for the South Korean government. A decade ago, South Korea was a labor exporting country, but migrant women have increasingly been entering in search of work via international marriage.

Multi-cultural families have increased threefold since 2004 and 255,000 foreigners (2.4% of the population) of 152 nationalities live in Seoul alone.

Since the incident, the Ministry of Justice has called for preventive measures in requiring men seeking international marriage to take cultural or marriage counseling courses with the Korea Immigration Service. Another legislative measure is in progress requiring men to provide information on past mental disorders, domestic violence, divorces, or alcohol addictions before receiving marriage visas.

Historically, Korean women have been portrayed as obedient housewives but with the cost of living increasing, Korean women have increasingly entered the job market. These women have slowly changed the image of obedience to one of independence and have voiced their opinion in the lack of women rights within Korean society. But for Korean men, especially in rural areas, finding a suitable mate has proven to be difficult. Deeply rooted traditions of family life are difficult and unattractive for modern Korean women; as such these men have begun to seek wives internationally in neighboring Asian countries. But the cultural and language barriers of between spouses have led to a rising number of divorces and in this case, death.

According to Yonhap News, the number of counseling sessions for foreign wives rose to 16.5 percent from a year ago. In a report provided by the Seoul-based Emergency Support Center for Migrant Women conflicts between couples vary from domestic violence, conflicts with the mother-in-law, disappointment with reality and economic difficulties.

The Korean government hopes to keep this incident from affecting South Korean-Vietnamese relations but the needs and issues of the foreign population are growing. During the 2008 UN Universal Periodic Review on human rights standards in South Korea, the international community boldly expressed their concerns in meeting the needs of the foreign population and recommended that South Korea ratify the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW).

Starting July 19, city and district offices will begin investigating over 1,000 international marriage agencies for valid licenses. But the government has yet to state what punitive measures it will take against illegal agencies currently in practice. The South Korean government and public have shown deep concern over the matter and hope to see improvements in the coming months.

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