Back To Top

Laws fail to address international marriage fraud

After the Ministry of Justice enacted a law to toughen the requirement for marriage brokers, international marriage agencies have lost their licenses in South Korea, causing unlicensed brokers to crop up and engage in marriage frauds, according to government data.

As per data released by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, and Statistics Korea, the number of licensed international marriage agencies dropped by one-third from 1370 firms in 2012.

Behind the drop lies the government’s decision to control the number of marriage brokers to prevent marriage fraud. The Justice Ministry enacted a restrictive rule for issuing a license to marriage brokers in Korea in 2013. However, the measure did not work out. According to figures from Statistics Korea, the number of international marriage frauds has been increasing since 2013.

“The increase stems from the government’s misguided policy,” said Lim Dong-won, an associate attorney from Wonjin, Korea-based law firm. “The government’s strict rule pushed out the legitimate agency. Rather, it drew in fraudulent brokers who diversified their tactics to continue their business without holding a license.”

One of their common tactics is to give false hope. According to a study of marriage frauds, brokers took advantage of unmarried Korean men by giving them false hopes of a perfect marriage. In fact, the brokers only cared about making money out of arranging a marriage. They never verified whether the bride wanted to marry him in the first place

“My wife never wanted to marry me right from the beginning. She only cared about money. She thought of me as someone who should bring money to her and her family members.” an anonymous victim of marriage fraud said in an interview with Munhwa Ilbo

After his marriage in December 2013, the couple started slowly drifting apart, so he took her to a local multicultural center for marriage counseling. He bought her a brand new smartphone, and even went so far as to wire 500,000 won to her parents’ account. But she continued to demand more money from him. After five years, she finally left him.

Another tactic is to extort money. The brokers did not allow a meeting between the couple until a broker commission was paid. The commission went by different names such as tuition for learning Hangul and cost to settle down in Korea. They even urged clients to pay 500,000 won extra per month as “wife’s rent,” according to the study.

“Even though you have completed a contract with a marriage broker, you are most likely to find yourself paying unexpected money for tuition or food,” said Ahn Jae-Sung, a representative to the center for international marriage victims, in an interview with Munhwa Ilbo. “You need to pick up her language and definitely see her in person. I believe it will help you avoid marriage fraud.” 

By Yeo Jun-suk (