Japan Research and Analysis
through Internet Information

by Yasuharu Dando

Seemingly Overheated International Marriages in East Asia
(May 2006) (Japanese edition:April 2006)...Japanese Blog Review 5

At the beginning of April, South Korea fell into extreme difficulty in finding spouses, and "gathered many brides" from other East Asian countries; consequently, it was reported that "13.6% of marriages in 2005 were international ones-especially, in rural regions, 35.9% of South Korean males got married to foreign females." A South Korean newspaper published a title that means, "A common recognition of homogeneous race collapses."

Japanese bloggers were surprised at this fact, while understanding from "Difficulty of Marriage (Kanpu-Sou)" that "this path was tracked by Japan in the past, and Japan is still walking on this path. South Korea has just outrun Japan, at a full throttle." In Japan, around 1990, males often escorted their brides from South Korea, but later, their marriage targets shifted to females in China, the Philippines, and Thailand. In Japan, the ratio of international marriages to the total number of marriages reached 5.2% in 2001 and there has been no significant increase since then.

I think that the reason why this problem is so serious in rural regions of South Korea is that regional people became left behind from rapid economic development. Since the past and until 2003, they sometimes have resorted to international marriages, and their brides have been mainly Chinese and Korean Chinese females who can speak the South Korean language. However, in 2005, their brides became Vietnamese, Chinese, and Filipino people, in this order. I have heard that Korean Chinese women who can speak both the Korean and Chinese languages are now in great demand in the service business field as China is becoming the world's factory.

A Japanese woman, who is now in South Korea as the wife of a South Korean male, conducted an on-site report via "The situation of international marriages in South Korea" of "Furari Kankoku Tsushin (South Korea Strolling Communication)."

"The advertisements placed on a provincial information board say, 'Let's marry a Vietnamese woman!' and, 'We will introduce a female from Thailand to you!', etc. I was surprised to realize that there were many cases of such international marriages around me. A Chinese female married a Korean male who lives with his mother, has a child, and is somewhat aged. They married although they could not speak each other's language, much less English; in South Korea, a man who once divorced and now lives with his mother, is the type of man South Korean women hate the most, and so such a man cannot find a bride. Thus, it seems that such men target foreign women because they cannot find their spouses in South Korea."

In addition to verbal problems, there are a variety of pitfalls in an international marriage with someone with different lifestyle habits and customs. For example, in Shizuoka Prefecture, a person who is promoting marriages with Chinese women talked about the marriage fee, which is paid by a bride to the intermediary and which is not conducted in Japan, in a weblog titled, "International Marriage : One Year After the Anti-Japan Demonstration."

"The general amount of the marriage fee is said to be 50,000 yuan (750,000 yen) in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province. It is considered that the marriage fee is borne by Chinese females and so it is irrelevant to Japanese males. It is thought that the incomes of a husband and of a wife are separate, and there is no idea of sharing their money in a single wallet. Thus, wives consider that it is natural for them to work, and that it is possible to repay the fee easily by working. But, they cannot speak Japanese and so there are no workplaces for them. If the husbands think that it is enough to give a monthly allowance of 20,000-30,000 yen for a full-time housewife, and they want to have children rather than have their wives work, I cannot expect that they will have a happy marriage. Is there any better solution? I think that if a wife earns about 50,000 yen as a part-time worker and receives about 30,000 yen as a monthly allowance, it is possible to settle the marriage fee."

It has already been 20 years since Japan started to welcome East Asian females as brides in rural regions. In some cases, they divorced. Let's grasp what is going on, by gleaning the latest data, which is available in the "Annual Report on the Statistics of Population, Main Statistical Tables," released in 2002 by the Statistics and Information Dept. of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare. Please keep in mind that in the case where the nationalities of wives are South and North Koreas, most of them reside in Japan.

Numbers of Marriage and Divorce Cases and the Ratio of Divorce to Marriage with Different Nationalities
2002 Marriage Divorce Divorce/Marriage Divorce/Marriage
(data in 1998)
Both are Japanese 721,452 274,584 38% 33%
Husband: Japanese
Wife: Foreign
27,957 12,087 43% 35%
Wife:South/North Korea 5,353 2,745 51% 40%
Wife:China 10,750 4,629 43% 32%
Wife:Philippines 7,630 3,133 41% 40%
Wife:Thailand 1,536 699 46% 27%
Wife: Japanese
Husband: Foreign
7,922 3,165 40% 33%

In general, divorce is done several years after marriage, and so it may be weird to refer to the ratio between divorce and marriage in the same year; however, these data have been nearly stable for the past several years, and so the ratio is meaningful as an indicator. The ratio of 4 years ago, that is in 1998, was added, and so the trend can be seen obviously by comparing it with the latest data. Divorce between "a Japanese husband and a foreign wife" is obviously more frequent than the case in which spouses are both Japanese; and divorce between "a Japanese wife and a foreign husband," whose marriage is considered to have been love-based in most cases, is ranked midway. I do not think that divorce is surprisingly frequent, but it seems that international arranged marriages are certainly accompanied with some handicaps.

In February this year, there was a case in which a wife whose nationality is Chinese stabbed 2 kindergarten children in her neighborhood in Shiga Prefecture, and then there was concern that there had been a problem with the attitude of the local community in welcoming her. When reading weblogs, it was found that South Korea also has started to deal with this issue, for example, by conducting a questionnaire survey targeted at foreign wives in each municipality. South Korea has just received a lot of foreign wives who are unable to understand the South Korean language, and it will witness huge perturbation in the future. Probably because South Korea suffered social distortion due to its hasty economic growth, it has already marked the highest figure in Asia: a 2.85 per 1,000 divorce rate, which is higher than the 2.3 rate in Japan, as of 2001. The fluctuations occurring in South Korean family lives will include further disturbances.

Related work!!---"Japanese Youth and Women Got Skinny Mainly due to Their Anxieties over Employment"
--------------"There is a possibility that one third of males in their 20s will be unmarried throughout their lifetime."
--------------"The Japanese Automobile Industry Does Not Bring the World Happiness"

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