Interracial marriages in S. Korea on decline

November 19, 2014

Marriages between Koreans and foreign spouses have decreased for the third consecutive year.

By Yoon Ja-young

Marriages between Koreans and foreign spouses dropped 7.8 percent last year, decreasing for the third consecutive year. The number of babies born from interracial couples also decreased 7.1 percent.

According to Statistics Korea, a total of 26,948 couples comprising a Korean and a foreign spouse tied the knot last year, which is 8.3 percent of total marriages — a drop of 0.6 percent from the previous year. The percentage was higher in South Jeolla and North Jeolla provinces as well as on Jeju Island.

“Government measures concerning interracial marriages meant the number of marriages between Korean men and foreign females decreased,” an official at Statistics Korea explained.

While the government has increased support for interracial families, it has also toughened qualifications for interracial marriages, with Korean language ability of the foreign spouse and the annual income of the Korean spouse crucial for issuing marriage visas.

The measure was taken due to an increasing number of females from developing countries who have suffered from hastily matched marriages. A Vietnamese female spouse, for instance, was killed by her mentally ill Korean husband eight days after they were married in July 2010.

The new measures mean the number of babies born from interracial couples has also decreased, as has divorce.

A total of 21,290 babies were born to interracial couples last year, down from the previous year when they accounted for 4.9 percent of total births in Korea.

“In the early 2000s we saw the number of interracial marriages increase and such couples would have two or three children. Now these couples are following the trend of Koreans and they don’t have as many kids,” the official said.

The average age of a male in an interracial couple in Korea that is marrying for the first time is 35.5, while it is 27.2 for females. The gap is quite wide compared to Korean couples, where the gap averages 2.2 years.

A total of 13,482 interracial couples got divorced last year, down 1.6 percent from the previous year. They accounted for 11.7 percent of total divorces in 2013.

Among the males in interracial couples, 68.5 percent were Koreans, followed by China with 9.2 percent, the United States at 6.6 percent and Japan at 5.1 percent.

Among the females, 29 percent had Chinese nationality, Koreans took up 23.5 percent, Vietnamese were 22.6 percent and Filipinas 6.5 percent.