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Survey shines light on violence against foreign-born wives

Graphic: Candles burning, Seoul

The Commission's survey of 920 foreign-born wives found that more than 40 per cent had suffered domestic violence.

A video on social media of a Korean man violently abusing his overseas-born wife has cast a spotlight on the vulnerability of migrant women to domestic violence, exacerbated by language barriers, limited social ties and unstable residency status.

The Korea Herald reported that 21 migrant women in Korea had been killed as a result of domestic violence, drawing on data from the Korea Women Migrants Human Rights Center.

In a survey of 920 foreign-born wives conducted by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, 42.1 per cent said they had suffered domestic violence and 68 per cent said they had experienced unwanted sexual advances.

In addition, 81.1 per cent had experienced "severe verbal abuse" and 41.3 per cent had been forced to pursue a Korean way of living, with 38 per cent having been threatened with assault. Nearly 28 per cent said they had been forced to have sex by their husbands.

"Most of the marriage migrants don't leave the abusive relationship and don't file complaints when they are abused, for the sake of their children," Goh Ji-woon, a lawyer from Immigrants Advocacy Center Gamdong, told the Korea Herald.

According to the NHRCK survey, the majority (52.8 per cent) of women did not seek a divorce because they were worried that a divorce might harm their children.

Around 25 per cent said they were worried they would lose custody of their children and about 20 per cent cited their visa status.

Under the Immigration Control Act, migrant women who are no longer married can only extend their stay in Korea if their husbands die or go missing, or if they can prove that they were not responsible for the breakdown of the marriage.

Migrant women who have custody of their children or parental visitation rights are allowed to stay in Korea after a divorce. Those without children must prove the husband is 100 percent responsible for the breakup to be able to extend their stay.

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination highlighted the lack of safeguards for the rights of marriage migrants in Korea and their restricted access to Korean nationality in its periodic review in December.

And in a major step for marriage migrants' rights, Korea's top court earlier recently ruled in a case that a migrant woman could maintain her residency status after divorcing her Korean husband, even if she was partly responsible for the breakup.

Over the past years, the number of international marriages has increased, accounting for between 7-10 per cent of all marriages in the country.

In 2018, 22,698 international marriages took place, up nine per cent from the previous year, with most foreign spouses coming from Vietnam, China and the United States.

Date: 24 July 2019

Source: Korea Herald

Image credits

  1. Candles burning, Seoul - Robby McCullogh on Unsplash