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Korean report sheds light on foreign brides

A REPORT released Sunday by the South Korean government has highlights the circumstances facing Cambodian and other women who migrate to Korea for marriage – exposing in particular large gaps in age and education levels between the brides and their husbands.

Earlier this month, Cambodia temporarily banned marriages between local women and South Korean men after breaking up a human-trafficking ring designed to facilitate such unions.

According to the report, released by South Korea’s Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, of the approximately 131,000 foreign brides surveyed there was an average age gap of about 10 years. But for Cambodian wives, the average gap was 17 years.

There was also a significant gap in the level of education attained by foreign wives compared with their husbands. Half of the women surveyed had obtained less than an elementary level of education, whereas their Korean spouses were mostly high school graduates. The report did not include information on the education gap between Cambodian women and their husbands.

The report found that, despite wide age and education gaps, 57 percent of foreign spouses surveyed showed “relatively high satisfaction” with their lives in Korea, though almost 35 percent said they felt discriminated against as foreigners.

According to the survey, the employment rate of foreign wives was 37 percent. Nearly 60 percent of the families surveyed were struggling financially and earning less than US$1,700 per month.

Korea’s Dong-a Ilbo newspaper reported Sunday that the number of foreigners living in Korea exceeds 1 million, and that last year 43,121 marriages – 13.6 percent of the national total – involved foreign spouses.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong reiterated Monday that authorities would review marriage procedures between Cambodian women and South Korean men before the ban is lifted.

Officials at the South Korean embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment Monday.

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