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It was raining out on an afternoon in late September. Rain had already poured across Can Tho City for several days, but a small class on Tran Hoang Na Street, Ninh Kieu District was still available for nearly 30 young women who came to learn how to become good wives for strange men in a country they have only seen in movies but are soon going to: South Korea.
This was the third day of the class, after which the women, most of whom are from various provinces in the Mekong Delta region, will receive a certificate of attendance of the “Orientation Program for Vietnamese brides who marry South Korean men”. Thus, despite the bad weather, their faces were glowing with happiness. 18-year-old Ngo Thi Trang Lanh* is one of them.
Using a broker recommendation as guideline to tie the knot with a South Korean man whom she met on the Internet, Lanh told Tuoi Tre News that her future husband is working for a company in South Korea. Like other young women in the class, Lanh is full of hopes of a happy marriage and better living conditions.
“I learned about this class through the South Korean Consulate based in Ho Chi Minh City. I decided to enroll to do some psychological preparation for a new life. I strongly believe that I will have a happy marriage,” she says.
A three-day class
This class takes place in a 30m2 classroom on the first floor of a small building in Ninh Kieu District. On the balcony, colorful images of South Korean cuisine were spotted hung up on a string. Close to the corner was a long table featuring eye-catching mock-ups of South Korean traditional dishes like Bibim bab, Tteokbokki, Baechu kimchi, and Miyeok guk.
Mock-ups of South Korean traditional dishes displayed outside the classroom. Photo taken from video clip.
“Most of the students in this class have little education and they have not gathered together in one place for a long time. So, it is easy for them to become tired and sleepy,” says teacher Trinh Luong Hoang.
Therefore, “before beginning the class, I told my students there is no ‘force’ between us. We just exchange information with each other. If I know something, I will tell them, and if they have any questions or requests, even ones irrelevant to the curriculum, feel free to ask me,” she adds.
The 30m2 classroom where 25 to 30 young women are provided with basic knowledge about South Korean culture, food, clothing, transportation, and communication... Archive photo provided by Can Tho City's Women Union.
Video: Mekong Delta girls learn how to become good wives for South Korean men.
Since time is limited and there is too much knowledge to share, both teacher and students have to work hard to keep up with the time. Besides offering basic knowledge from books, Hoang screens documentary films depicting life in South Korea, aiming to provide her students with an overview of the country’s culture, food, clothing, transportation, and communication, as well as how to take care of their husbands and children.
Ms. Won Sun A. Photo: Quynh Trung
On September 20, 2011, the Korea Center for United Nations Human Rights Policy and the Can Tho Women’s Union signed a memorandum of understanding to develop the Orientation Program for Vietnamese women who will marry South Korean men. The program is funded by the South Korean government. The first class under this program was opened one month later. So far, 47 classes have been organized and 1,276 trainees have received the certificate of attendance.According to statistics released by the South Korean consulate, from 2002 to 2010, an estimated 40,000 Vietnamese women married Korean men, mainly in the Mekong Delta provinces of Dong Thap, Bac Lieu, Can Tho, Ca Mau, Ben Tre, and Hau Giang, which accounted for 79 percent of the total.
After overcoming initial shyness, the trainees began waving their hands to ask basic questions like “how do you call parents-in-law or invite the family of their husbands for dinner in South Korean?” or practical questions about their partners’ financial ability such as “How much is your monthly salary?”
The class also provides Vietnamese brides with emergency telephone numbers of more than 200 support centers across the country in case they face unfavorable circumstances.
Hong Anh*, a trainee from Kien Giang province, told Tuoi Tre News: “Thanks to this course, I understand what South Korean culture will be like and how to care for my husband and children, among other valuable knowledge.”
“I wish to start a family abroad so I decided to wed a South Korean man,” she reveals.
Life is not a movie
Hong Anh, Trang Lanh and other rural women in the Mekong Delta region have selected their future husbands through the introduction of brokers or their relatives in South Korea. They are often told stories of successful marriages or watch beautiful love stories in South Korean romantic films, most of which might be divorced from the harsh realities of a real life.
A number of family tragedies between Vietnamese and Korean spouses have occurred, but it seems that Vietnamese wives have suffered more than their South Korean partners.
“Vietnamese women often get married to South Korean citizens through intermediary companies. So they have little knowledge about their husbands’ country, probably leading to conflicts or tragedies,” says Won Sun A, the course’s South Korean chief representative.
“It would be great if Vietnamese brides are offered some basic information about South Korea before arriving in their husbands’ homes. I hope that after this class they will realize the dark sides and take a closer look at our country,” she shares.
Ha Thi Kim Bau, Head of the Legal Policy Division of the Can Tho Women’s Union, agrees with Ms. Won, and told Tuoi Tre News that there are many reasons why Vietnamese brides may not have a happy marriage, one of which is that many women wed South Korean men only for their own personal interests.
Cross-border marriages between Korean men and Vietnamese wives will certainly continue because many rural women still insist that marrying a South Korean man is a good solution for a better life.
The three-day class still receives 25 to 30 students every week. A majority still has high hopes for their future relationship, as they have yet to get real-life experience.
* The names of Vietnamese wives have been changed to protect their confidentiality