The Korea Herald

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Police nab 100 illegal marriage brokers

By Ock Hyun-ju

Published : Aug. 30, 2015 - 17:31

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More than 100 international marriage brokers have been caught illegally offering matchmaking services, the police said Sunday. 

Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency booked 111 brokers belonging to 72 international matchmaking agencies without detention for violating the Marriage Brokers Business Management Act.

The brokers were accused of receiving an average of 15 million won ($12,700) from Korean men in return for arranging marriages with underage girls, offering a list of foreign women from which the men could choose and misleading clients through false advertising.


Among them, a 71-year-old man, surnamed Lee, and two others were suspected of introducing 20 Vietnamese girls to a Korean client in January without offering authentic information, such as their marriage status, medical and criminal records and occupation.

In South Korea, the Marriage Brokers Business Management Act require brokers and agencies to provide foreign women and Korean men with full information about their future spouses in the form of authorized documents.

Those who fail to abide by the law can face up to three years in prison and a financial penalty of up to 2 million won.

Lee allegedly gave their client a piece of paper with a simple profile of the girls, enabling him to choose based on their names, ages and educational backgrounds.

The illicit practice, which human rights activists have condemned for treating women and girls like products, remains a popular way for Korean men to find foreign matches.

According to the police, many foreign women are coerced into marrying Korean men they hardly know and having sex with them the next day.

The lack of information provided by the brokers about potential spouses often leads to cases of marriage fraud, in which foreign wives ended up not entering Korea or running away from their husbands once they settled here, the police said.

False advertising is another business tactic prevalent among international brokers.

A 51-year-old man, surnamed Dae, was accused of using misinformation to lure customers. He allegedly claimed that his agency had overseas branches and had successfully set up marriages for 24 couples, neither of which was true.

Some of the agencies were not even registered with the authorities as required.

As part of efforts to avert marriage fraud, the authorities have toughened the requirements on international marriage agencies and brokers, which reduced the number of licensed matchmaking services.

The number dropped by two-thirds, from 1,370 in 2012 to 449 in 2014, according to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.

But the tightened regulations led to the creation of a black market of unlicensed matchmakers, with the number of marriage fraud cases hovering around 600 in recent years.

As of January, there are 305,446 marriage migrants in Korea, with 83 percent of them being women. The largest numbers came from China and Vietnam.

By Ock Hyun-ju  (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)