03/31/2006, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Marriages between Koreans and foreigners increase but divorces do too

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young

The National Statistical Office said 14 out of every 100 marriages in 2005 were with foreign citizens, especially Chinese.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – In 2005, there were 43,121 mixed marriages between Koreans and non-Koreans, a 21.6% increase over the previous year. This means that 14 out of every 100 couples who married in 2005 tied the knot with someone from a different nationality. This data was released by the National Statistical Office (NSO).

The increase mirrors the aspirations of provincial governments that have approved laws to promote mixed marriages. For instance, Namhae County and Hamyang County, both in South Kyongsang Province, passed an act to support adult men marrying foreign brides.

Mixed marriages with people from other states have always been common in rural areas, with one out of three Korean men engaged in agriculture and fishery bringing in their brides from overseas. The trend increased by 8.5% from 2004 to 2005.

Chinese brides proved to be most popular with Korean men, representing 66.2% of the total. For Korean men in rural areas, however, Vietnamese brides were the most wanted, accounting for over half of overseas marriages among them.

Among Korean women who married foreigners, 42.2% chose Chinese, 30.8% selected Japanese husbands, and 11.8% tied the knot with American men.

However, statistics reveal that divorce is also on the rise in mixed marriages (a 25.5% increase between 2004 and 2005) while the divorce rate among Korean couples is dropping (a decrease of 7.8%).

There were 128,468 cases of divorce in 2005. On average, 867 couples got married every day and 352 couples divorced.

The main reasons leading to divorce were: character differences between spouses (49.2%), economic reasons (14.9%), trouble among family members (9.5%) and spousal infidelities (7.6%). The average length of time living together before divorce totaled 11.4 years.

The average age of getting married rose: there was an average increase of more than two years over 10 years ago.

Single Korean women aged over 30 used to be considered as a big problem for the whole family, but not any more. The proportion of brides aged between 30 and 35 more than doubled during the last 10 years. This figure has been on the rise since 1995.

The increase in mixed marriages means that Korean society needs to show more comprehension, support and friendship to foreign women and men married to Koreans. Among the problems faced by mixed couples, according to non-Korean spouses, is the language in which to educate their children. There are more than 40,000 children of mixed couples in elementary schools.

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