Mail-order marriages have boomed in South Korea over the past 15 years, driven by a glut of low-earning men who struggle to find partners in their achievement-obsessed country.
But a problem has developed: too many of the marriages are falling apart almost as quickly as they start.
The South Korean government’s latest wheeze is bride school, which has the potential to redefine – and slow – the mail-order-marriage process. The Justice Ministry announced that wives would receive visas only if they shared at least one language with their new husbands.
At a class in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in February, there was only a cursory lesson on language. The teacher, Nguyen Hoang Phuong, explained the Korean alphabet and the pronunciation of letters.
They blazed through a 114-page basics-of-Korea textbook. Nguyen explained why young people shouldn’t sit in priority seats on the Seoul subway. She told them that new Korean mothers eat seaweed soup, high in nutrients. And she said Korean wives always, always dote on their in-laws.
One student confessed to the teacher that she was “disgusted” by the notion of sex with a stranger. One 19-year-old, Sin Thi Khanh Ly, said she’d been told by her parents to find a South Korean man. “My family is very poor, and I try to be obedient,” she said, “but I’m not very comfortable with the idea.” Her husband is 42, she said.
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