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Why foreign brides keep silent about domestic abuse in S. Korea Updated: 2019-07-15 16:15:31 KST

For four in ten women who've come to Korea for marriage, the marital bliss soon turns into domestic violence.
But, according to Korea's human rights commission, one third of them neither seek help nor report the abuse.
Why don't these women speak out?
A Vietnamese woman in her early thirties agreed to talk to Arirang News on the condition of anonymity.

"My husband has been beating me since 2010. He also aborted my baby while I was unconscious. I slit my wrists to kill myself but I failed. Now, I'm trying to get a divorce but it's hard to leave because he says he'll hire someone to kill me. I don't speak enough Korean and if I go back to Vietnam, I would be a nuisance to my parents. I want to stay and work here."

For many like her, it's not as simple as leaving.
Divorce means they lose their right to remain in Korea unless they take the case to court or have a child with Korean citizenship.

"Foreign women rely on their husbands to meet the requirements for settlement or permanent residence. If they separate, they must prove that the Korean spouse is to blame for the divorce, but that's extremely difficult as many don't report cases of abuse. Women with children are also disadvantaged, as the court grants custody to the parent who has more capacity to support them."

Over the past two decades, Korea has been expanding support centers, legal consultations and emergency hotlines in 13 languages for migrant women.

"We receive about a thousand calls a month, and one-fifth of them are about domestic violence. We've had urgent cases where women call us after being stabbed or beaten almost to death because they can't communicate in Korean. Another large proportion ask about divorce and rights to remain in the country."

Serious cases are immediately taken to the police, and the victims can seek shelter in 28 safe houses for migrant women where they can receive medical and emotional therapy as well as job training.

Around one-thousand women are currently living in these shelters, where they can stay for up to two years.
But without the legal clearance to remain in the country, their position is precarious.
The Supreme Court last week ruled in favor of a migrant woman, saying her right to stay in Korea should be extended even if her ex-husband isn't completely to blame for the divorce.
The move has been largely welcomed but observers say more should be done.

"There are now over 130-thousand women who moved to Korea for marriage. The government said last week that it will discuss improving laws to better protect migrant women and their human rights, and tackle the negative social and cultural conditions that set them back.
Oh Soo-young, Arirang News."
Reporter : osy@arirang.com
KOGL : Korea Open Government License
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