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Nonghyup Launches Matchmaking Project Amid Growing International Marriages Updated: 2011-01-11 00:00:00 KST

The number of international marriages in Korea has increased dramatically over the past few years.
Today about 40 percent of families living in the countryside are said to be multicultural.

And as more people start to recognize the importance of international marriages in the country's rural areas more efforts are being made to ensure that transnational matchmaking is done fairly.
We have our Han Da-eun from Arirang News joining us today to tell us more about this story.
Hello Da-eun.

[Reporter : ] Hi guys.
I'm sure you both have already heard or read a lot about multicultural families in Korea.
The trend is nothing new to the country's rural districts but as the figures rose at a faster pace than expected unforeseen problems surrounding international marriages also emerged.
Last year, a Vietnamese woman was murdered by her mentally-ill Korean husband traumatizing the whole nation with disbelief.
The cause of the tragic incident was illegal matchmaking, which often asks for exorbitant commissions to their clients only in return for false information.
So to make a change Nonghyup, Korea's largest federation of agricultural cooperatives, has rolled up its sleeves.
Nonghyup has gone beyond the fresh food business and launched an international marriage brokering project last month in hopes of mitigating the serious problems caused by illegal and at times vicious matchmakings.
Let's take a look.

Multicultural families are now at the center of Korea's rural life.
Four in ten couples in the countryside are presumed to be multicultural with most cases being Korean men getting married to a foreign spouse.
Thousands of farmers are welcoming brides from outside the country for various reasons and in fact the number of international marriages in Korea more than doubled over the past seven years exceeding 33-thousand in 2009 from about 15-thousand in 2002.
This foreign woman named Marialyn Arca is part of this growing trend.
She came from the Philippines in 2003 and has built a nice home for herself with her farmer husband and their two children in Korea's countryside.
It may sound bizarre to leave one's own country and settle with a stranger on foreign soil but Marialyn says she loves her life now and is happier than ever.

[Interview : Marialyn Arca, Married immigrant] "I met my husband through a friend of mine. I really enjoy my life here and I think Korea is a better place to live than my own country. I have lots of friends here as well."

But not all international marriages have a happy ending.
Illegal matchmaking agencies that ask for huge commissions only in return for false information have plunged many into a marriage they never wanted in the first place.
Growing numbers of transnational matchmaking fraud even became a new source of diplomatic tension between Korea and some countries.
And to prevent things from getting worse, Nonghyup, Korea's largest agricultural cooperative, has lent a helping hand.

[Interview : Choi Ho-young, Manager
Rural Resource Development Division, Nonghyup] "Many people are not aware of the fact that international marriages should be practiced within the boundary of both Korean and the other country's law.
Vietnam, for instance, strictly prohibits commercial marriage brokerage. And for this reason, we are running a non-profit matchmaking project, in collaboration with the Vietnam Women's Union."

[Reporter : Han Da-eun
daeun@arirang.co.kr] "Nonghyup says if things work out well, it will expand its matchmaking business further nationwide. And hopes are high that its transparent brokerage would help foster a brighter future for multicultural families in Korea."

Four men, who run their own farms in North Gyeongsang Province were the first to sign up.
Thanks to Nonghyup's matchmaking service… these men met the type of spouse they've been looking for… and visited Vietnam last month where all four of them got engaged.
Engagement wasn't the first time for this 50 year-old man named Uhm Moon-sup.
After losing his first wife a few years ago he made the uneasy decision to welcome a bride from outside the country that he is willing to share the rest of his life with.
Although an interpreter was needed for him to talk to his fiance over the phone, the language barrier was just a tiny obstacle that he could easily knock down with his strong feelings for her.

[Interview : Uhm Moon-sup, Farmer] "Nonghyup was different from other brokers. All the procedures were very credible and they provided one-on-one interpreters for us, so we had no difficulty in communicating with our fiances."

Illegal matchmaking agencies that often provide false information… have been pointed out as the biggest reason for unhappy and unwanted international marriages.
But with the growing trend of multicultural marriages in Korea's rural areas more efforts are being put into enhancing transparency and equality in the transnational matchmaking business.

Well Da-eun, it's good to hear that these people in rural areas will now be somewhat protected from the current matchmaking market that appears plagued by fraud.

[Reporter : ] Indeed.
I think it's a big relief that there's an increased public awareness on this matter.
I mean, try to put yourself in their shoes.
Your fate depends heavily on some matchmaking agency and then it turns out that the agency is just a bunch of swindlers.
I would be infuriated!

Well I hope the Nonghyup's project lays a strong foothold, so that it can solidify its stance as a clean, credible matchmaker.
Thank you for that interesting report Da-eun.

[Reporter : ] My pleasure.
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