by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO
FOR nearly a decade, more than six thousand Filipino women are living out what’re usually depicted in Korean romance telenovellas.
It is life imitating art, according to the latest study on cross-border marital arrangements in Korea or inter-racial marriages between Koreans and other nationalities.
A 443-respondent survey done in September 2007 that covered various nationalities, including some 73 Filipina spouses, bared that “love” was the primary reason for the women acceding to the marriage.
Nine women in a center being run by Catholic nuns reflected that survey’s notions.
The women were participants in a workshop to help them in their marriage to their Korean husbands.
On a brown Manila paper, they wrote that Koreans work hard, budget their money, save, and are conscious of their hygiene.
These they gathered from watching Korean soaps on local television stations.
A study by Hye Kyung-Lee of Pai Chai University said something different about their mates.
Hye’s study noted that “lower class” Korean men seek “more submissive, obedient, and traditional (foreign) wives to serve them and take care of their parents” –especially by Filipina and Vietnamese wives.
The Koreans’ motivations already contrast those of the Filipino women, Hye’s recent paper found.
When asked why marry foreign women, Korean spouses –including 91 Korean men who married Filipino women– ranked submissiveness and obedience to Korean parents as primary reasons.
Since 1990, the Korean National Statistics Office recorded some 6,216 Filipino wives of Koreans. In the 16-year period, that means every year, an average 388 Filipino women got married to Koreans.
Among nationalities, such as Japanese, Vietnamese, and natives of mainland China, Koreans with Filipina spouses had the highest percentage of responses saying they married their foreign wives due to parental obedience.
Hye’s Korean male respondents bared that the submissiveness, obedience, and traditionalist family practices of their Filipino and Vietnamese wives are the “most important reasons” why they married them.
Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) director Minda Valencia, however, said love couldn’t conquer all even if women interviewed said “they rely on love to know there spouses better”.
Their entry into a society with a rich Confucian tradition –but which allows online matchmaking– is seen to be a burden for the Filipino woman.
The women’s limited knowledge of Korean language and culture may cause some marital problems, Valencia said. For some Korean men, such as those who are of lower social status and who come from the provinces, their marriage with Filipinos may “renegotiate their social status”.
But the husband as the primary breadwinner “is considerably lowered” as a consequence of their marriage, Valencia adds in a paper she wrote on Filipina marriages to Koreans.
CFO registration records show that the average age of the Filipino spouses is 28 and that of the Koreans’ is 35, as there are more Filipino women than Koreans who have completed college education. While Filipino women use tenacity and resolve to prove to Korean spouses they are no pushovers, Filipino women sometimes feel “they have to work doubly hard to have a successful marriage”.
This means not just additional responsibilities for the Filipino women; their Korean spouses and families-in-law find hope in these Filipino women.
These are women like Rita and Tricia. They were part of the nine women who said they only learned Koreans expect submissive wives during a pre-departure orientation seminar that the Religious of the Good Shepherd-run nonprofit Center for Overseas Workers organized.
“I won’t mind the duties at home,” said Rita, who married her Korean spouse ten days after the latter arrived September 4, as Philippine laws require prior to civil marriage.
Tricia, 22, expressed the same. She married a 45-year-old Korean from Jeolabuk after his 16-day stay in the Philippines.
Tricia said she also accepted the role of taking care of the husband’s farming family.
“I am not against helping his family,” Tricia narrated, “for as long as my husband will help my family”.
Tricia hopes her husband would fulfill that promise to her and her family in Pampanga, even if Koreans usually don’t give their whole salaries to their wives.
“You don’t have much of a choice” but to hope, she said.
Another potential marital problem, Valencia thinks, is that Korean husbands pressure the Filipina wives to prove “to be worth the money” the former spent in bringing their wives to Korea.
This is what Elenita is trying to prove to her widower-spouse, a 50-year-old police official who has been living with her in Manila for months already. /MP