Support Services For Foreign Spouses Of Korean Nationals
The number of Koreans marrying foreigners has skyrocketed in recent years. Foreign spouses, mostly women from other Asian countries,are increasingly becoming an important part of the Korean population.
According to a survey, as of September 2013 the single largest group of marriage migrants was Vietnamese women, nearly 40,000. Non-Korean Chinese and ethnic-Korean Chinese women formed the second and third largest groups, with women from Japan, the Philippines and Cambodia following.
Challenges Faced By Spouses Of Intercultural Marriages
These intercultural marriages face various challenges. Some common problems include the relationship between the foreign spouse and the Korean spouse, as well as the relationship between the in-laws and the foreign spouse.
However many issues faced by these marriages are much more serious. For example, children born with dual heritage face discrimination in the society. The multiracial Korean children have a hard time adjusting in the largely homogeneous Korean society.
Government Programs And Support Services
Korean government has implemented many programs that offer support by providing professional and practical assistance to intercultural/interracial families.
The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs has put the Headquarters of the Healthy Family Support Center in charge of developing and running programs to help these families. The programs are intended to help women from abroad who are married to Korean men adjust to Korean life and society.
The Healthy Family Support Centers are located all across the country. These centers provide classes in Korean language and culture. The center also arranges meetings between foreign spouses who have been in Korea for a while with the newly arrived foreign spouses.
These programs are aimed towards helping families to better appreciate the cultural differences. It also provides the foreign and the Korean spouse with the tools and techniques of effective communication. Free family consultations are also available to facilitate the process of psychological adaptation to Korean society and family life.
Criticism About The Program And The Policies Regarding Marriage Migrants
Critics however are of the opinion that the government is too focused on “cultural assimilation”. Many believe that these programs are one-sided. Most of these programs are aimed towards educating the foreign spouses about Korean language and culture. Some even going as far as sending instructors to the homes of international families to give them lessons in how to raise their children according to Korean culture. However, there is little to no education for the Korean spouse and in-laws about the language or culture of the foreign spouse.
Currently if F6 marriage visa is extended to a migrant newlywed, then he or she can stay in the country for two years. The biannual renewal of his or her visa status depends on the sponsorship of the South Korean spouse, as well as eligibility for permanent residency and naturalization. Many critics believe that this gives too much power to the Korean spouse and the in-laws to abuse the foreign spouse.
Crime Against The Foreign Spouses
This lack of understanding has lead to crimes against the foreign spouses.These crimes include domestic violence and in some cases even murder. Many critics believe that the government should instead emphasize legal protections for migrant women, preventing domestic violence and raising the awareness of the human rights of immigrants.
Activists and civic groups have been calling for improvement in policies for interracial marriage and for marriage migrants who are mostly women.
Since April 2014, the government has made changes in the policies. Now Korean spouses need an annual income of 14.8 million won. Additionally, foreign spouses have to face more strict language requirements.
The government has also established Emergency Support Service Centers around the country in order to tackle domestic violence against the foreign spouses.
Emergency Support Centers for Migrant Women
The center provides 24 hours/7 days a week, emergency support services to all foreign women in South Korea, regardless of their nationality. In addition to the main center in Seoul, there are currently 6 satellite centers. Currently, these satellite centers are open Monday to Friday, from 09:00am to 6:00pm.
Each emergency support center provides the following services, free of charge:
Telephone and in-person counseling services in 11 languages (Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, English, Tagalog, Russian, Thai, Mongolian, Cambodian, Uzebek, and Japanese)
Emergency shelter services
Couple and family conflict resolution (telephone and in-person)
Connection to other emergency services: legal aide, investigation and police services, hospitals / medical treatment
Interpretation services (in court, at counseling centers, at shelters, at hospitals, with the police, between 2 conflicting parties, etc.)
Emergency Support Centers Contact Information
Address: 3rd Floor, Central Place, Seosomunno, Jung-Gu, Seoul
Address: 2nd Fl., 86-4 HwaSeo-Dong, PalDal-Gu, Suwon 442-860
Address: 5th Fl., 240 WolPyeong-Dong, Seo-Gu, Daejeon 302-280
Address: 5th Fl., 1001-25 WolSan-Dong, Nam-Gu, Gwangju 503-230
Address: 669 DuGu-Dong, GeumJeong-Gu, Busan 609-370
GyeongBuk (Gumi) Center
JeonBuk (Jeonju) Center
Emergency Women’s Shelters
The government has emergency women’s shelters in various locations within Seoul. These shelters are for foreign women who are victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and prostitution.
These are the various services available for foreign spouses of Korean nationals. These services and programs are geared towards increasing public awareness.
The government hopes to increase receptiveness of multiculturalism in Korean society.