New attention is being given to a recently amended law that can prevent foreign spouses from entering Korea after a man killed the owner of an international marriage matchmaking service by setting fire to his business.
The incident occurred on March 27 when a man in his 60s, in a fit of anger after his Vietnamese wife was denied entry into Korea, set the matchmaking service on fire. It is why she was rejected entry, however, that has some people upset: according to a recently revised law, foreign spouses of Korean nationals can be denied access to South Korea if they fail to pass a basic Korean language examination. As the number of denied entries has increased, so have protests against the law’s change.
Due to a scarcity of marriageable women in Korea’s rural areas, many farmers have taken to international marriage brokers to set them up with women from regions like Southeast Asia. The recent law change, however, makes this process a much more arduous one. One Korean farmer in his 40s, commenting on his Cambodian wife failing the exam after the two had already married in Cambodia, said, “It’s a difficult situation that you have to pass an exam in order to come into the country. My wife in Cambodia also feels this way and I miss her a lot.”
As of April last year, people who immigrate to Korea through marriage must achieve a beginner-level grade on a Korean language test or complete a specific course of Korean language study. The law was changed because of high levels of domestic violence between international couples, partially a result of communication problems, and the high divorce rate of international marriages, which now sits at over 10,000 per year. Following the change, it is estimated that about a thousand foreign spouses have been denied entry into Korea because of a lack of Korean language ability.
Representatives of international marriage agencies have taken up protesting the law change to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. Speaking out against the law, a spokesperson for one of these agencies said, “[This law] has the harmful effect of making a man, who is married and has registered his marriage, give up on his partnership and become a husband without a wife.”
Meanwhile, the government has maintained that the law is necessary in creating households with basic Korean skills and says it has no plans to amend it.
What are your opinions about the law? Is it fair for the government to require a certain Korean language ability from immigrants?