Generalizing the migrant women in Korea
(Migrant women referred to here are those who are married to Koreans and living in Korea.)
I met my friends Wendy, Cathy (Korea Times) and Jasmin (Love in Asia) last Saturday. I brought my son with me so I wasn’t able to sit and talk with them for a long time. Seonggyu (my son’s name) just wouldn’t sit down and listen to the ajummas (except for Cathy) talk. He had to constantly drag me outside the coffee shop of Wendy’s apartment.
Anyway, one of the things we talked about was the heated discussion that occured on this blog last week. I kept mum and didn’t reply to any of the comments then. Not because I didn’t have anything to say but I was enjoying the show.
Jasmin talked about the different kinds of migrant women she had encountered while doing the show “Love in Asia.” Surely, she has met more migrant women in Korea more than anybody I know. Last Saturday night, she was also a guest audience (huh?) in a panel discussion on EBS regarding the flight of migrant women.
We both agreed that one commenter on this blog is right about his observation that it’s generally perceived that Korean men marry women from third world countries not out of love and if there are exceptions, they won’t change the general perception. He just wrote his arguments a bit arrogantly.
This is true in the Philippines and in Korea. People in both countries believe that Filipinas marry foreigners to have a better life. Koreans also believe that Korean men marry Filipinas (or women of other nationalities) because they couldn’t marry from their own. And they probably wouldn’t believe otherwise.
While I agree that there are Filipinas who marry foreigners for a better life, in general women set their own standards when finding a husband whether they marry a foreigner or not. And women in general would want to marry up.
Going back to generalizing the married migrant women in Korea, it is also generally
perceived that only the Korean men from the rural areas marry foreign women. I went back to the article I posted in my other blog about the number of Filipinas married to Koreans. The article said that 25 percent of foreign spouses live in Seoul, and about 30 percent live in Gyeonggido including Incheon. I think that perception isn’t true now. It could’ve been true two decades ago but times have changed and statistics shows that. As stated before, it’s difficult to change the general perception even with supporting evidences.
Do all Filipinas who are married here met their Korean husbands through a marriage agency? The general perception is that most did. In my group of friends (about 11), only two got married through an agency. The rest met their husbands while they were in the Philippines for one reason or another.
Were they all whirlwind romances? My friends often talk about how they met their husbands and how long they’ve known each other before getting married. Some of my friends married their husbands after six months of knowing each other. Some had spent years.
Are all migrant women battered wives? Of course not. If all migrant women here are battered or have been battered, then they wouldn’t be news anymore. I’ve heard of stories of abused foreign wives. Those news aren’t different from the ones I’ve heard in the Philippines. I guess then we could all agree that abusive husbands come from different nationalities. Among my 11 friends, only one was physically abused by her husband. (My other friends said that when you’re married you’re not supposed to go to nightclubs wearing seductive clothes and partying with other men.) Just because I don’t know anyone else who is abused doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.
In my six years, I am often asked questions about my married life. One of the those that really made me laugh was “isn’t your life here more comfortable than in the Philippines?” from a Korean. It’s not that life in Korea isn’t convenient but I had a more comfortable life in the Philippines, where I never had to lift a finger to have something to eat or have clean clothes to wear, worry about paying bills and so on.
Women here have their own reasons for marrying their Korean husbands. I don’t approve of agency- and cult-arranged marriages. I believe that marriage is sacred and that people should only marry for the right reasons. (I also think that once a person signs a marriage certificate, he or she is bound by its obligations.)
I know of people who got married through agencies and who didn’t know their husbands beforehand. It’s not really my business to judge them. Some of them are really nice who wouldn’t harm a fly. Some of them didn’t have the chance to go to school and help themselves. I just wish that they are safe and hopefully happy with their lives. I also hope that the more educated people will be more understanding and less discriminatory.