More educated Koreans embrace international marriage, survey reveals

By Park Sae-jin Posted : May 24, 2024, 15:48 Updated : May 24, 2024, 16:13
Getty Images Bank
[Getty Images Bank]

SEOUL, May 24 (AJU PRESS) - A shift in the perception of international marriage in Korea, where conservative Confucianism remains a fundamental part of society, has led an increasing number of highly educated men to seek lifelong partners from overseas through marriage brokerage services, a recent survey released by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Friday reveals.

For centuries, many Koreans have focused on preserving their culture and family traditions, rooted in Confucian values. International marriages are sometimes seen as a challenge to these values, as they involve blending different cultural practices and potentially diluting traditional Korean customs.

While conservative values have diminished over time due to Korea's rapid modernization and globalization after the Korean War (1950~1953), stereotypes and prejudices associated with international marriages still linger, particularly those involving spouses from less economically developed countries. Some people perceive these marriages as transactional or driven by economic motives rather than genuine affection.

But the comprehensive survey of over 1,100 matchmaking firms - including 347 international and 809 domestic ones - shows a changing attitude towards international marriage. The findings are based on an analysis of 1,234 customers and 439 foreign spouses who used such services between 2020 and 2022.

In the early 2000s, the main suitors for international marriage were middle-aged farmers who had missed their prime time for marriage. But the survey reveals a notable shift over the past decade. Ten years ago, 7 out of 10 people using these matchmaking services had high-school diplomas or lower. But in the latest survey, more than half or 50.6 percent held university degrees or higher.

The education level of international spouses has also risen. In 2014, only 12 percent of foreign spouses had university degrees or higher. By 2022, the figure increased to 26 percent. Although the majority of foreign spouses were still in their 20s (60.6 percent), their proportion has been decreasing since 2017. The proportion of those aged 30 and above increased by 17.2 percentage points from 22.2 percent in 2014 to 39.4 percent.

The proportion of international marriages arranged through "lightning-speed" meetings has also decreased. Some 56.6 percent said they met their spouse through extended one-on-one meetings, a 17.3 percent increase from 2020. The average time taken to meet, date, and marry a foreign spouse was 9.3 days in 2022, nearly twice as long as the average of 4.4 days in 2017.

Viet Nam remains the most common country of origin for foreign spouses here, accounting for 80 percent, followed by Cambodia at 11.9 percent. Matchmaking service providers speculate that Vietnamese people are preferred by Korean customers probably due to their similar appearance to Koreans and shared life values based on Confucian culture.

On average, users paid approximately 20 million won ($14,596) to brokerage agencies. They charged about 14.63 million won on average per case, but the prices often increased due to additional costs such as local marriage registration fees and traditional wedding gifts averaging 4.69 million won.
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