“MARRIAGE immigration is here to stay… [but] as long as our policy [on it] is blanket ban, a blanket denial, then we are not able to protect our women”, concludes Dr Ador R. Torneo in his lecture on Marriage Immigration and Multicultural Families: Public Policies and their Implications for the Philippines and South Korea last 12 October 2016 at the Benedicto Room, CPR Library. This lecture is part of the Foreign Service Institute’s Mabini Dialogue Series.
Despite the enactment of the 1990 Anti Mail-Order Bride Law [RA 6955] that prohibits the business of facilitating marriage between Filipinas and foreign men, underground intercultural marriages continue. Once married to Korean men, Filipinas and other non-Korean wives face problems, such as false representation of living condition, financial status and expectations of Korean husbands; degrading treatment as ‘commodities’; and becoming victims of sexual exploitation, debt bondage, involuntary servitude, and discrimination in school or workplace. To address these complicated and serious concerns, Dr Torneo proposed to repeal the aforementioned law or to put some restrictions on such marriages.
Dr Torneo, an associate professor at the De La Salle University and a migration research specialist, revealed the increasing trend in intercultural marriages between Korean men and women from developing countries. He attributes this to the Republic of Korea’s comprehensive government policies and programs such as the 2005 Act on Aging and Low Birth Rate, the 2007 Act on Regulation of Marriage Broker Industry, and the 2008 Support for Multicultural Families Act, among others, that seek to address the concerns on rapidly aging population, declining birth rates, and “marriage squeezes” resulting from skewed sex ratio. Further, there is an upward trend in the number of marriage migrant women from the Philippines, which accounts for 5.59% of the total marriage migrants in Korea from 2000 to 2010. While Korea’s assimilative framework of multicultural families has proven to be effective, the issues hounding marriage immigrant women underscore critical policy gaps that need to be addressed by the Philippines and Korean governments.
With the election of Jasmine Lee, a Filipina, in the Korean National Assembly in 2012, greater discussion and representation of marriage immigrants in policy making and implementation have been brought to the fore. This political involvement was deemed necessary but appears to be insufficient. According to Dr. Torneo, while the Korean government implicitly supports marriage immigration and marriage brokerage, social integration and multiculturalism, the Philippine government’s current legal framework limits its options in cooperating with the Korean government in monitoring and regulating international marriages.