Cambodian Move Indicates Exploitation of Foreign Brides
South Korea has increasingly come under attack for the abuse and exploitation of foreign wives, especially those from Southeast Asian countries. The plight of Vietnamese wives married to Koreans has already invited international criticism over rights abuses and human trafficking. It is heart-wrenching to read frequent stories that Vietnamese spouses were beaten to death or committed suicide ― far from realizing their ``Korean dream.''
What's more worrisome is that such a story does not stop with the ill-fated Vietnamese. The problem is now spreading to Cambodia. The Cambodian government has recently suspended processing all documents for marriages of its citizens with foreigners as a measure to minimize the possibility of human trafficking. You Ay, Cambodia's deputy minister of women's affairs, said April 3 that the suspension was prompted by concerns about exploitation and trafficking amid a surge in the number of Cambodian women marrying South Koreans.
She said the suspension affects all foreigners, not just South Koreans. But it is apparent that the measure was closely related to soaring cases of abuse of foreign wives in South Korea. She was quoted as saying that seven Cambodian women recently returned to their country because they could not endure pain from their married life with their Korean husbands. However, the official said the country has yet to uncover systematic exploitation.
The Cambodian move came after the Geneva-based International Organization for Migration (IOM) disclosed a report that thousands of South Korean men went to the Southeast Asian country to marry Cambodian women through brokers. The report featured the plight of a rising number of Cambodian brides migrating to South Korea in marriages hastily arranged by brokers who make huge profits.
The report noted that each man would pay up to $20,000 to marry a woman but that a bride's family would collect only about $1,000. The rest of the money would go to the brokers. There are growing concerns that brokered marriages could become a cover for human trafficking. Critics pointed out that marriage brokers have made inroads into Cambodia following a series of deaths, including suicides, of Vietnamese wives.
According to official statistics, about 1,800 Cambodia women married South Korean men in 2007, recording a fourfold increase from a year before. The figure was the third largest after Korean-Chinese women and Vietnamese brides. No doubt underground matchmaking businesses and marriage brokers have women trafficked and forced into marriage, tarnishing the image of South Korea.
A revised interracial marriage brokerage law is to go into effect in June in a bid to crack down on brokers for human trafficking-style methods. And a multicultural family support law is scheduled to take effect in September. It is urgent for the country to establish a firmer system to embrace foreign wives as well as migrant workers as indispensable members of our society. Interracial marriages now account for 10 percent of total marriages. Therefore, we have to roll up our sleeves to ensure human rights and equal opportunity for brides and workers from other countries.