More shelters needed to provide protection
By Kim Tae-jong
Many married migrant women remain vulnerable to domestic violence here but these helpless women lack places to take temporary shelter when they want to run away from their violent husbands.
On Wednesday, police arrested a 45-year-old Korean man on suspicion of murdering his 25-year-old Cambodian wife about a year ago to cash in on insurance policies.
It is the latest in a series of murders of immigrant wives by Korean husbands. Cases of domestic violence against immigrant women abound. According to the Women Migrants Human Rights Center (WMHRC), a growing number of migrant women are seeking help from suffering violent abuse and various other hardships following marriage to a Korean man.
Some of the abused wives stay at shelters and prepare for a new life but a lot of migrant women don’t have access to proper help or protection.
“We have increasing calls for help from migrant women who suffer from domestic violence. But it’s hard due to a lack of facilities and related policies,” said Kang Seong-euy, secretary-general of WMHRC.
Interracial marriages here have been on a sharp rise. In 2010, foreign nationals married to Koreans reached 180,000, up from 160,000 in 2009, according to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.
Six call centers are in operation across the nation, which receive around 5,000 calls a month from troubled migrant wives. However, only 18 government-funded shelters are available, each accommodating less than 20 people.
Compared to assistance provided for Korean women experiencing domestic violence, centers for migrant women also have to deal with providing translation, legal and emotional care services.
“Another major problem is that women come here with their children, but our center is a women-only facility. So it’s very hard to take care of children aged over 10,” Kang said.
Lack of protective policies
What complicates the situation is many migrant wives are reluctant to report to the authorities about their problems such as a husband’s abusive treatment in fear of deportation.
“Some husbands take advantage of the fact that their wives dread being deported. When a relationship falls apart and a migrant wife fails to prove her husband is responsible, she has to leave the country,” Kang said.
Korean husbands tend to abuse visa rules here as they only allow migrant wives to stay here under the condition that they stay married, with related laws focusing on the protection of Korean husbands without properly considering the human rights of migrant wives.
Tougher visa rules on migrant wives have been in place since 1998, making it mandatory for migrant wives to maintain their marriage at least for two years to be entitled to Korean citizenship.
“There were numerous reports in the past that migrant wives simply wanted to end their marriage all of a sudden but stay here and work,” an official from the Ministry of Justice said. “That’s why we had to be stricter on visa policies on migrant wives.”
But human rights activists and experts claim that the government should introduce measures to prevent migrant wives from falling victim to domestic violence.
They also argue most interracial marriages are fraught with various problems from the very beginning, as they are usually arranged quickly in just a week by matchmaking agencies, and the lack of understanding about each other usually leads to tragic results.
To minimize the problems of interracial marriages, the government strictly regulates matchmaking firms for illegal practices and forces Korean men to take a mandatory three-hour class on the culture of the would-be spouses’ countries to help them understand their would-be spouse’s culture.
Experts however call for even more efficient preventive measures.
“In most cases, the underlying issue is the lack of respect stemming from a lack of understanding,” said Kang Sung-hea, director of the Emergency Support Center for Migrant Women. “Most conflicts in marriages begin from very trivial issues but they become the most threatening and critical, which sometimes develops into violence.”
But she emphasized that it is dangerous to approach the issue in black and white, blaming solely either the husband or the wife.
“It’s not fair to simply say the husband is responsible or the wife is to blame for tragedy as they probably entered the marriage with different expectations and different ideas about an ideal marriage. In a way, society should also be accused as it fails to help couples adjust, leading them to face tragic ends,” she said.
보호받지 못하는 외국인 부인들
많은 결혼 이주 여성들은 가정 폭력에 무방비로 노출되어 있지만, 폭력 남편으로부터 도망 친다고 해도 마땅히 보호받을 임시 쉼터를 구하는 일도 쉽지 않다.
지난 수요일 경찰은 45세의 한국인 남편을 구속했다. 그의 혐의는 작년 보험금을 노려 25세의 아내를 살해한 것이다.
이것은 한국인 남편들에 의한 이주 여성 살해 사건들 중에 가장 최근이 일이다. 이주 결혼 여성에 대한 가정 폭력의 사례는 대단히 많다.
한국이주여성인권센터에 따르면, 점 점 더 많은 이주 여성들이 한국인 남편과의 결혼 생활에서 폭력적 대우나 다른 문제들로 인해 도움을 구하고 있다고 한다.
폭력을 받은 몇 몇의 아내들은 쉼터에서 생활하며 새로운 삶을 준비하고 있지만, 더 많은수의 여성들은 적절한 도움이나 보호조차 받지 못하고 있다.
“가정 폭력의 피해를 받는 이주 여성들로부터 많은 전화를 받습니다. 그렇지만, 시설과 관련 규정의 부족해서 제대로 그분들을 돌볼 수가 없습니다,” 강성의 사무처장은 말했다.
국제 결혼은 급격한 증가 추세에 있다. 여성 가족부에 따르면, 2010년 현재, 한국인과 결혼한 외국인 국적자는 18만 명에 이른다. 이는 2009년의 16만 명에서 증가한 것이다.