Every foreigner who is married to a Korean knows that multicultural marriage here is South Korea is not that easy, especially marriage between a Korean national and a Filipino. Everyday, you are faced with the challenge of “fitting in”, trying to understand and embrace a culture entirely different from yours. You have to learn and “perfect” your spouse’s language, because it’s the only way you can communicate with your in-laws. Most Korean parents-in-law won’t learn English, Filipino or whatever your native language is just to be able to talk to you, of course… and you can’t expect them to adjust to your culture. Sure they will respect you and your culture, but you will always be expected to act, speak, and do things the way a Korean daughter-in-law or son-in-law does. These challenges will come after you get married and live in Korea with your husband or wife, but right after the wedding, before coming to Korea, you will have to get through the tedious process of getting a visa.
Before getting the spouse visa from the Korean Embassy, there are TONS of documents you and your spouse will have to prepare, but even if you have brought all the pertinent documents and they have been authenticated, you and your better half will need to attend an interview with other Filipino and Korean couples, from which an official of the Korean Embassy blabbers non-stop in Korean Language, telling not-so-good things about (some) Filipinos marrying Koreans, warning Koreans about the possibility of being used for their money or for the chance of having a better life in Korea. They fail to realize that sometimes, it’s the Filipinos, particularly the younger Filipinas, who are being used and abused.
Later, the official starts asking personal questions to each couple in the room, such as: “Why did you marry him/her?”; “How long have you known each other?”; “How did you meet?”; “Were you introduced by a relative/friend? through a matchmaking agency?”; (To the Filipino) “Why are you going to Korea?”; “Do you know this man/woman you married?”; “Have you met his/her family?”; “Do you know what his/her job is?”. The questions seem endless, some degrading, and you have to answer them in front of other couples who will be asked the same things.
When my husband and I had our interview in the Korean Embassy in Manila, we were quite confident that we would not be given a hard time, because we submitted all the requirements. Besides, we have known each other for 7 years before we got married and both his and my friends and family can attest to our long-distance relationship… but you see, even if you’ve got nothing to hide, you will get the same suspicious glare from the official interviewing you, so it’s normal to get nervous.
My husband was holding my hand as we were waiting for our turn to be interviewed. I remember him whispering to me: “Don’t worry. Just answer the questions.” My visa was approved without having to undergo another scrutiny, but not all visa applicants in the room were as successful. A very young Filipina was not granted the visa, because her husband is 30 years older than her. Another Filipina who said she met her husband three days ago and she couldn’t tell his name or job got her visa denied, too. Some couples were asked to stay (maybe) for a second interview, most of whose marriages were arranged by brokers of matchmaking agencies in Korea, which, by the way, is LEGAL in South Korea, but ILLEGAL in the Philippines, according to the Anti-Mail-Order Bride Law (Republic Act 6955 Section 2):
It is hereby declared unlawful:
(a) For a person, natural or juridical, association, club or any other entity to commit, directly or indirectly, any of the following acts:
(1) To establish or carry on a business which has for its purpose the matching of Filipino women for marriage to foreign nationals either on a mail-order basis or through personal introduction;
(2) To advertise, publish, print or distribute or cause the advertisement, publication, printing or distribution of any brochure, flier, or any propaganda material calculated to promote the prohibited acts in the preceding subparagraph;
(3) To solicit, enlist or in any manner attract or induce any Filipino woman to become a member in any club or association whose objective is to match women for marriage to foreign nationals either on a mail-order basis or through personal introduction for a fee.
It makes me wonder why Filipinos are mostly the culprits when marriage between a Filipino and a Korean doesn’t end well, when in fact, our country does not approve matchmaking, and it’s Korea that legalizes matchmaking firms as long as the agency is registered and “aware of issues concerning inter-racial marriages and ethics”. There are more than 1, 000 matchmaking companies in South Korea. How does the Korean government gauge these matchmaking agencies’ “awareness of such issues”?
In the Korean Embassy, based on what I’ve heard and witnessed during the interview, Filipinos marrying Koreans are perceived as “users”. Every one of us a suspect; our Korean spouse a possible victim.
A Filipina my husband and I know shared with us her unpleasant experience in the Korean Embassy when she was applying for her visa. Because her husband was not with her, she had a really hard time and was asked to come back many times. Stressed and tired, she called her husband in Korea, and had him talk to one of the officials. They settled things right then and there, on the phone. He had to return to the Philippines for the interview. A Korean marrying a Filipino is required to attend the interview with his/her spouse.
Thank God, on the day of our interview, I was able to meet some Filipinos who might have lessened the prejudice a bit. There were couples like us, who have known each other for years and have fallen in love before finally deciding to tie the knot. One couple went to the same church and had been in a ten-year relationship before they got married. A couple went to the interview with their two children. They have lived in the Philippines for years since their marriage. The woman and her children have never been to Korea. I don’t know the rest of the story, but the woman was there, obviously, for the spouse visa. I remember them, because one of their kids kept crying during the interview and the Korean Embassy official curtly asked the woman to take her child out of the room. A man, who had been working as an engineer in Korea for years, met his wife in Korea, but they both had to go to the Philippines, so that the woman could meet his family. The man is fluent in Korean Language. He and the official spoke in Korean all throughout the interview. It seemed as if the official favored him. He wasn’t asked a lot of questions.
Of all the questions I was asked that day, there are four I recall:
OFFICIAL: How long have you known your husband?
MY ANSWER: Seven years.
OFFICIAL: How did you meet him?
MY ANSWER: I was his English teacher.
OFFICIAL: Why did you marry him?
MY ANSWER: I love him. (I remember my husband looking at me and I’m pretty sure that my face was flushed as red as a tomato.^^)
OFFICIAL: Why are you going to Korea?
MY ANSWER: I want to be with my husband. (After another question I don’t quite remember) His work and his family are in Korea. He wants us to stay there.
During the interview that follows CFO’s guidance and counseling session, I was asked this question again: “Why did you marry a Korean?”
A few days ago, someone asked me the same thing. It was meant as a joke from a drunk acquaintance. I’m tired of being asked this question. Is it such a BIG deal to marry somebody of another nationality or race? I answered him anyway, and it’s the last time I am ever going to answer this silly question: “Why I married a Korean? I didn’t marry a Korean. I married the man I love.”
I don’t have the right to judge those who marry for other reasons. I know a few Filipinas who have their own reasons for marrying a Korean besides love, and most of them are happily married and are trying their best to live good lives here in Korea. Though it is true that SOME Filipinos marry Koreans to have a better life, not only Filipinos but other nationalities, too, there are those who marry for love, and that’s the only reason… no hidden agenda. After all, life as a foreign spouse in Korea is not a piece of paradise. There are many risks to take and as I’ve mentioned earlier, “challenges to face everyday”. If you are one of those who like to stereotype foreigners like me who are married to or in a relationship with a Korean, open your mind and think before you judge or speak.
- What Every (Pinay) Daughter-in-law Must Consider (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Just How Important Is Your Alien Registration Card (ARC)? (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- F-5: Permanent Residence Visa in South Korea (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- My Korean Husband Drinks… Should I Be Bothered? (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Husband (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Welcome to Korea!!! ^^ (chrissantosra.wordpress.com)
- Getting Married in Korea (chersurvivingkorea.blogspot.kr)
- Marrying a Korean (buhaykorea.com)
- Import of Korean noodles banned in PH (globalnation.inquirer.net)
- Korean embassy wants ban on Korean noodles lifted (rappler.com)
- Flashback Friday: Korea (mashedpotatoesblog.wordpress.com)
- 7 ways to learn Korean for free (matadornetwork.com)
- Elephant Speaks Korean, Video (ramanan50.wordpress.com)