Vietnamese women become largest source of foreign brides in South Korea

By Vi Vu   November 20, 2017 | 01:40 am PT
Statistics show the trend is being driven by the popularity of K-Pop and Korean soap operas in Southeast Asia.

Vietnamese women attend a Korean class at the Women Migrants Human Rights Center in Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Reuters/Jo Yong-Hak

Vietnamese women now account for more foreign brides in South Korea than any other country for the first time, according to new data on multicultural marriages.

Statistics Korea said in a report last week that Vietnamese women accounted for 28 percent of foreign brides in the country last year, followed by 27 percent from China and 4.3 percent from the Philippines. The report recorded 21,709 multicultural marriages in 2016, down 3.4 percent from 2015.

According to the report, in the past Chinese women always ranked first in terms of the number of foreign brides in South Korea, but their number dropped to 5,838 last year while the number of Vietnamese brides grew to 6,054.

Vietnamese women, many from poor rural families, have been marrying South Korean men for years hoping for better lives in the more developed nation. However, it hasn't been a fairytale ending for all of them, despite the fact that reports of suicides and fatal beatings have fallen.

Statistics Korea said the marriage trend has been driven by the popularity of K-Pop and Korean soap operas in Southeast Asia.

“Favorable impressions of Korea lead to Vietnamese women applying for jobs in Korean companies and coming to study in Korea,” it said, as cited by the Chosun Ilbo.


A Vietnamese fan welcomes South Korean band Girls' Generation to Hanoi. Photo by Reuters/Kham

The newspaper interviewed employees of Lotte Mart and Samsung in Vietnam who said that the Korean businesses had painted a positive image of their country.

“A lot of our Vietnamese staff want to learn Korean and experience Korean culture,” a Samsung worker told the newspaper.

The electronics giant currently has six factories in Vietnam and employs 136,700 workers. Products from its factories are exported to 52 countries around the world.

South Korea is currently Vietnam’s biggest foreign investor.

According to the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency, South Korean firms invested more than $50 billion in Vietnam between 1988 and 2016, making up more than 30 percent of total foreign investment with over 6,000 projects.

The strong inflow of investment has coincided with a cultural wave that has seen local fans fainting at the sight of Korean stars. K-Pop fever hit Vietnam in the early 2000s when Korean TV shows and pop songs achieved an unusually high level of popularity, long before Psy’s “Gangnam Style” took the world by storm.

Although there have been signs of waning interest, South Korea’s largest multiplex cinema chain CGV is dominating the movie industry in Vietnam and is unlikely to let that happen quickly.

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