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Interethnic marriage is a form of exogamy that involves a marriage between spouses who belong to different ethnic groups or races. Intra-racial interethnic marriage was not historically a taboo in the United States.
In more ancient times, some marriages between distinctly different tribes and nations were due to royalty trying to form alliances with or to influence other kingdoms or to dissuade marauders or slave traders. Two examples, Hermodike I c.800BC and Hermodike II c.600BC were Greek princesses from the house of Agamemnon who married kings from what is now Central Turkey. These unions resulted in the transfer of ground-breaking technological skills into Ancient Greece, respectively, the phonetic written script and the use of coinage (to use a token currency, where the value is guaranteed by the state). Both inventions were rapidly adopted by surrounding nations through trade and cooperation and have been of fundamental benefit to the progress of civilization.
In recent years, the number of inter-ethnic marriages in Korea has increased substantially. However, most of non-Korean spouses of Koreans are other Asians.
The non-Korean spouses are often from Vietnam, Japan, China, Laos, Philippines, Bangladesh, Russia and even Peru. Before 1990, most inter-ethnic marriages were between Korean women and foreign men, mainly from the United States or Japan. Marriages between Korean men and foreign women grew due to urbanization of Korea. In 2017, the ratio of Korean Men and Foreign Women to Korean Women to Foreign Men marriages were 14.9 to 6 (Korean Office of Statistics, 2018). Men in rural cities were deemed undesirable for marriage by Korean women and would then have to seek out a foreign wife. Korean women tend to move to urban cities to increase the chances of finding a Korean husband (Lim, 2010). New rules for international marriage were introduced 2014 to reduce the divorce rates, it became mandatory that the foreigner learns basic Korean and the family must make a minimum salary of $1,500 per month.
The rise of multicultural marriages began in the early 1990s when Chinese women moved to Korea to marry into a rural family. One multicultural marriage evolved into 37,171 by the end of the decade. Even though multicultural marriages are becoming more frequent, it is not assimilated by Korean culture as well as it should be. Foreign wives and children of multicultural marriages are usually snubbed and often discriminated against because they cannot fully adapt to the homogeneous culture. Even with the setbacks, inter-ethnic marriages continue to grow and is expected to reach over 1 million in 2020.
Multicultural Facilities for Families
The Multicultural Family Support Act came to life in 2007 which gave foreigners and their families a fighting chance at surviving in Korea. Over the years, Multicultural Family Centers have opened around Korea to assist the foreigners in adapting to their new lifestyle. These centers help soften the cultural shock and promote happier marriages despite the difficulties that the spouse might face. Foreign spouses are not usually given time to adapt before they are thrown into the culture. “Most inter-ethnic and interracial marriages take the form of a speedy arranged marriage via matchmaking agencies and religious organizations” (Chung & Yoo, 2013).
The wife is expected to leave behind their culture and follow the Korean culture. Other than Chinese women, Vietnamese women are most likely to marry into a rural household due to the common work ethnics and family values that are shared. The foreign wife struggles to learn how to speak Korean, cook Korean food and provide for a Korean household. Many inter-ethnic marriages resulted in divorce or the wife running away due to not being able to take time to adapt to her new lifestyle.
Divorce Rate of Multicultural Marriages
When the foreigners arrive to Korea, they come with the illusion of living the Korean Dream by being automatically accepted and everything will be easily handled. They are soon faced with a brick wall of oppressors such as language, cultural and economic barriers. Even though there is help available to save their marriages, it does not always work. 40% to 52% of inter-ethnic marriages end in divorce. Koreans living in rural areas are usually poor and once the spouse realize that they cannot live on the salary that they are making; they opt for divorce. There have been cases of the spouse getting their citizenship and running away all together without mentioning divorce.
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- Yen, Hope (2012-02-16). Interracial marriage In the U.S. Climbs to New High, Study Finds. Huffington Post
- The Cambridge Ancient History, edited by John Boederman, Cambridge University Press, 1997, pg 832
- Mycenaean Origin of Greek Mythology, Martin Nilsson, 1983 Univ of California Press, p. 48.
- Amelia Dowler, Curator, British Museum; A History of the World; http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/7cEz771FSeOLptGIElaquA
- "Statistics Korea". kostat.go.kr. Retrieved 2019-05-05.
- Lim, Timothy (2010-03-01). "Rethinking Belongingness in Korea: Transnational Migration, "Migrant Marriages" and the Politics of Multiculturalism". Pacific Affairs. 83 (1): 51–71. doi:10.5509/201083151. ISSN 0030-851X.
- Chung, Grace H.; Yoo, Joan P. (2013-01-22). "Using the Multicultural Family Support Centers and Adjustment Among Interethnic and Interracial Families in South Korea". Family Relations. 62 (1): 241–253. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3729.2012.00754.x. ISSN 0197-6664.