The farmer fisherman marriage broker fund
Some rural South Korean towns have a female to male ration of 100 to 125. Local governments have allocated public funds to pay marriage brokers to find foreign brides. (Pictured: Web site for bride broker.)
The extent of the female shortage in South Korea is staggering, and cannot be ascribed to coincidence. Based on figures published by the official Korean population bureau between 1994 and the present, the male to female ratio for the under-five set hovers between 113 to 115.5 boys for every 100 girls. In rural regions the disparity is severe, with some areas having a boy to girl ratio of 125 to 100. It is largely accepted that this dearth of girls is the nation’s own doing. When sonogram technology became cheaply available in the 1970s, some South Korean couples used the technology to determine the foetus’ sex and subsequently aborted female foeti. In 1992, the South Korean government attempted to ban sex-selective abortions, but the damage was done. As the first sonogram-era generation now enters its 30s, South Korean men are finding themselves competing for too few women. And local politicians are facing a future with a dwindling constituency, says Yonsei University sociology professor Kim Hyun-mee. Hence the use of taxpayer funds for bride brokers.
Some South Korean local governments are so concerned about the prospect of fewer marriages and fewer offspring, that some have allocated public funds to foot the bill of bride brokers who introduce these men to foreign brides. In South Korea’s Kyungsang province, 100 men over age 35 each received 6000 Euros apiece from is commonly referred to as the “Farmer-Fisherman International Wedding Fund.” Kim, who objects to brokered marriages, describes a typical bride-hunting travel package, in this case to Vienam:
“It all takes place over a period of three to four days. Day one: the prospective husbands, interpreters, and matchmakers gather at Incheon International Airport (near Seoul). 1 pm: Arrive at Hanoi; have lunch, followed by a matchmaking session, in which the men are promised introductions to between 30 and 300 women. The men settle on one. Day two: The men, brokers and interpreters go to the women’s parents to ask permission for their daughters’ hand; the families are so poor they have no choice; marrying a foreign man is for them a potential success. Day three, the women go to a medical clinic for an AIDS test—and a virginity checkup. After the exam, at 1 or 2 pm, they hold the wedding ceremonies. They go to their honeymoon in the afternoon at Halong Bay (a holiday destination on the country’s eastern shore), where the marriage is consummated. The next day, they go back to Korea.”
The marriage brokers contacted by France 24 declined to be interviewed.
Still, brokered marriages represent only a fraction of international marriages in Korea, and many hasten to dismiss the brokered marriages as tarnishing the overall image of international marriages. The producer of Love in Asia (see main article) does not feature mail-order couples, stating firmly, “We are against all that.”
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