Exploring the realities of Korean-Filipino marriages

Posted at 11/07/2011 1:40 PM | Updated as of 11/08/2011 7:06 AM
Multicultural family in Korea

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino fans of Koreanovelas may harbor fantasies of marrying their Korean Prince Charming someday, but the reality can be quite different from the happy endings they see on television.

Language barriers, culture shock, and even domestic violence are just some of the challenges facing Filipina brides or so-called "marriage migrants" when they move to South Korea.

In 2010, an average of 130 Filipino marriage migrants arrived in Korea every month. Most of these marriages between Filipina women and Korean men are arranged by "marriage brokers" in Korea, despite the fact that this is illegal in Philippines under R.A. 6955 or Anti-Mail Order Bride Law of 1990.

Statistics from the Korea Immigration Service showed as of April 2011, there are 7,550 Filipino marriage immigrants living in Korea. The Philippines is said to be ranked as the third preferred source of foreign wives of Korean men, after China and Vietnam.

Many of these Filipina migrants are usually from the provinces and are motivated by financial reasons to seek out arranged marriages with Koreans. They have little information and almost no preparation for their new lives in South Korea, save perhaps for what they have seen on Koreanovelas.

The Philippine Embassy in South Korea recently came out with a short video that serves as a guide for Filipino marriage migrants or those planning to marry Korean nationals in Korea.

The 30-minute video was directed by Carlo Cruz and narrated by Consul-General Sylvia Marasigan, who was also the project head. It introduces viewers to family life culture in Korea, shows experiences and advice of married Filipinos and includes a section on how the welfare of Filipino marriage migrants can be protected.

Common problems

One of the most common problems between Filipina wives and Korean husbands is the language. Many Filipinas come to Korea with almost no knowledge of Korean, and their Korean husbands often do not know how to speak English.

"Madalas ang problema ay ang language, kasi di marunong mag-Korean ang Pilipina at hindi rin marunong mag-Ingles ang Koreano, o kung marunong man ay konti lang. Importante ang communication sa mag-asawa, kaya nagkakaroon sila ng problema," said Sister Lucia Olalia of the Kasan Migrant Center, in the video.

Filipino brides are usually advised to make the effort to learn how to speak and read Korean language and the culture before they come to South Korea.

Frustrations in the marriage usually lead to domestic violence, Olalia said.

"Itong domestic violence ay madalas off-shoot ng mga frustrations ng dalawang mag-asawa. Frustrated ang Koreano dahil iba ang kanyang expectations. Frustrated din ang Pilipina dahil iba ang in-eexpect. Lalo na yun mga nag-asawa sa agency," she said.

Marie Frenzie Dais, who was married to a Korean, recalled some problems she had with her husband.

"Yun pag-sasama namin may konting gulo na. Yung asawa ko pag-gabi na umuuwi, laging lasing. Pagdating ng pangatlo kong anak, nung time na buntis ako, nagkagulo kami, doon kami nagumpisang mag-hiwalay," Dais said.

Irvin Bequillo of the Loving Mothers Center in Daegu said the center has received complaints from Filipina wives who experienced abuse at the hands of their husbands.

"Ang pangatlong kaso ng mga kababayan natin ay ang pambubugbog ng mga asawa. Sila ay lumalapit sa center upang mailayo sila sa violente nilang asawa. Ang center ay nagproprovide din ng shelter. Pinag-uusap sila kung ano ang pinagtalo ng mag-asawa. Kung di sila magkaka-ayos ay tutulungan sila sa shelter ng mga madre," Bequillo said.

Another problem is that Korean husbands do not usually give money to their wives, so the women are forced to find jobs.

"Isa pa sa problema ng kababayan ay di sila binibigyan ng pera ng mga Koreanong asaswa. Ang ginagawa nila ay maghanap ng trabaho, para matustusan ang pangangailangan pang-araw-araw," said Bequillo.

Valuable advice for happy marriage

While some Filipinas may experience marital problems, there are others who have remained happily married to Koreans. Fe Kim and Grace Park of the Filipino-Korea Spouses Association shared their advice on how Filipinas can face these challenges.

"Ang mga mapapayo ko sa mga Pilipino na mag-aasawa ng Koreano, unang-una bago sila pumunta sa Korea,  ay mag-aral muna sila ng Korean language at alamin nila ang kultura sa Korea, kung matanggap ba nila o hindi, para sa kanilang kapakanan," Kim said.

Park, on the other hand, said it was important for Filipina wives to understand and respect Korean culture.

"Ang pinakamahalaga ay ang intindihin po natin ang kultura ng ating asawa at unawain at higit sa lahat, ituring na sariling atin ang kultura na yan. We should be very proud of our husband's culture and at the same time, turuan natin ang ating asawa na malaman din ang culture natin," Park said.

Kim emphasized the importance of showing the Korean in-laws that you are willing to work and adapt to their ways.

"You should do the job, kung maghugas ng maraming plato, pag may affair dito, kailangan gawin mo. Di yung mag-feeling Senorita ka. Kailangan kung ano pinagawa sa yo, as long as di ka sinasaktan, you should do it, mula sa puso mo, at marunong ka makisama. Kung asawa ka ng Korean, dapat marunong ka makisama sa mga Koreans, lalo na sa pamilya niya," she added.

The video on multicultural marriages between Koreans and Filipinos can be viewed on YouTube.