Matchmaking in Korea: Mentally Ill Grooms Need Not Apply

Cases of abuse in S. Korea prompt officials to investigate matchmaking firms.

ByMonica Suk
July 16, 2010, 5:19 AM

BEIJING, July 16, 2010 -- The 20-year-old Vietnamese bride had been in South Korea for only eight days when she was stabbed to death at her house July 3 in Busan.

Police investigators identified the suspect as her husband, Jang, 47, whom they would identify only by his last name. Police described Jang as a psychiatric patient with 57 cases of schizophrenia treatment in the past five years.

Before bringing his bride home from Vietnam, Jang was hospitalized for five days, police said. They also said he had been charged with assaulting his parents in 2005.

"I committed the murder after hearing a voice from a ghost," he told police during the investigation. "He told me to kill my wife."

The bride was from a farming family in Vietnam that has been receiving government aid and housing. The couple met through a Korean matchmaking company and got married in Vietnam in January, police said. The woman followed Jang to South Korea this month with the hopes of living the Korean Dream.

The case prompted the Women Migrant Human Rights Center of Korea to sue the matchmaking company for providing too little personal information about the husband.

"It's a sort of a warning to the society and other matchmaking companies," Mi-ju Kown, a team counseling leader at the human rights center, said. "Such marriages shouldn't be allowed unless personal information on both sides is fully provided."

In an effort to avoid future crimes, government officials will enact a law to force companies to provide marriage, criminal, and medical records to the couples.

But many Koreans are skeptical because matchmaking is so lucrative that companies are likely to resist.

"I knew that bringing foreign wives was one of the social problems these days but I was never aware that the system in international matchmaking companies is so poor," Bumjoon Shin, a college student in Seoul, said.

South Korea Abuse

The Justice Ministry quickly released an official report after the incident saying that it will pass a law to make men go through basic education to minimize any possible crimes. The number of brides who came to Korea through spousal migration reached 33,000 in 2009 alone, accounting for 10 percent of total marriages.

The majority of migrant brides are Chinese, followed by Vietnamese. Most of them are married to farmers or fishermen and one-third of them get divorced. The average marriage lasts 3.1 years.

The practice is so common because women from Vietnam's or the Philippine's poor families want to improve their lot by getting married to men in a developed country.

For the grooms, it is difficult to attract woman locally as Korean women move from rural areas to bigger cities to live more modernized lives.

Many experts point to flawed practices by matchmaking companies as the cause of increasing crime rates in these families. Since 2009, there have already been 21 agencies in Busan banned from business for not being registered and 10 for breaking the law.

Stricken with grief, the parents of the dead Vietnamese bride arrived in Korea Wednesday. Her body was cremated Thursday morning and her remains will return to Vietnam with her family.

"Many Vietnamese women living in Korea are grieving over the brutal murder," counselor Kown said of the alleged crime. "They want to protest for the respect of their human rights but are not sure of what to do. We all need to look back on our society and see what has gone wrong."

Police officials are combing through 98 registered matchmaking companies in Busan and Internet websites. The plan is also to strengthen training programs for the matchmaking companies.

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