The Ministry of Justice said Thursday it will require foreign spouses to take a Korean language test for a marriage visa beginning next year.
In addition, Korean spouses will have to have a given income level in order to be eligible for marriage to a foreigner.
A ministry official told The Korea Times that the minimum per-month level is set at 1.1 million.
"Foreign brides and bridegrooms who are not capable of communicating in basic Korean language will find it far more difficult to get a marriage visa due to a new set of regulations," a ministry official said. "Foreign spouses will have their Korean language skill tested during a visa interview."
The new regulations come at a time when there are reports of a high level of marriage failures in interracial marriages.
Language barrier and cultural differences are cited among the top causes of broken marriages but insecure sources of income for the couples — often between Korean men and migrant brides — also causes marriages to break.
If their Korean language proficiency is not good enough to communicate with their spouse, their visa application will be reviewed again after six months, the ministry said.
If they fail to pass the language test for a second time, they will have to complete government-sponsored courses for social cohesion after they arrive in Korea to get a visa.
The ministry said it will finish all legal preparations for the change by the end of the year.
Under the new rule, those who obtain the beginner level certificate of the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) will have their interview waived.
Currently there is no rule requiring foreign spouses to have Korean language skill.
The ministry unveiled the new regulation on foreign marriages after officials discussed it during a meeting with Korean ambassadors.
They reached a consensus to implement stricter language requirements as part of addressing the problem of language barrier, since it is cited as one of the major sources of social adjustment problems for migrant brides, and domestic violence here.
The ministry plans to hold seminars and forums to listen to diverse views from experts and field workers before implementing the measures.
The latest data shows interracial marriages have been on the rise but regulatory and legal steps fail to ensure foreign spouses' smooth integration into their adopted home country.
Besides, the overall immigration policy needs to be fixed, according to some experts. They argue that the policy is ineffective in dealing with the new wave of immigrants as Korea becomes a multicultural society.
The ministry already strengthened a rule on qualifications for marriage brokers, considered another key factor in the collapse of interracial marriages.
As reported in Thursday's edition of The Korea Times, the brokers often deceive prospective foreign brides or Korean husbands-to-be by giving them false hopes of a better life.
When they face a far different reality, they despair and the marriage breaks down.