By Kwon Mee-yoo
From October, Korean men planning to tie the knot with foreign women will be able to attend a program to learn about interracial marriage before their wedding.
Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) said the plan will help married immigrants settle down as a member of society, not as a foreigner.
Cho Eun-hee, the assistant mayor for Women and Family Affairs (WFA) said, ``The program was designed to meet the needs of multicultural families who want to live with our citizens.''
According to the city, interracial marriage has been increasing but there have also been high rates of divorce due to a lack of mutual understanding. The education course will mainly compare and contrast successful and failed marriages.
``The Ministry of Gender Equality offers similar programs in cooperation with local governments. Our program is specialized for bridegrooms-to-be, because we thought they need educating the most,'' said Lee Soon-deok of the WFA.
Following the completion of the program, the men will receive 1 million won ($820) in financial aid for their wedding. ``We know that people are reluctant to participate in this type of education and thus decided to offer incentives for those completing the 20-hour course,'' Lee said.
The city will also provide Korean and job training courses to married immigrants to help them get jobs. To support immigrant women delivering babies even before they get used to life here, postpartum care and subsidies for babysitters will be provided, too.
``The majority of multicultural families earn 1-2 million won per month and 78 percent of immigrant wives want to be employed. However, they have difficulties in communicating in Korean and rearing children,'' Lee said.
The Seoul Municipal Eunpyeong Hospital offers psychiatric counseling for multicultural families and free consultations every Friday.
The city will also seek the opinions of married immigrants on their programs. The ``Rainbow Forum,'' consisting of 50 married immigrants, will monitor the city's policies on multicultural families and suggest new ideas.
The Women's Initiative for a Safer Environment will recruit 200 married immigrants for a similar forum.
There are some 36,500 multicultural family members in Seoul, about a quarter of the nationwide total of 144,000. By wives' nationality, Chinese topped the list with 28,175, followed by Vietnamese and Taiwanese with 1,657 and 1,515, respectively.
Their biggest problems in adapting to Korean life was the language barrier and financial difficulties.