Nam Hoa Ward in Quang Ninh Province has around 300 women married to foreigners; the highest rate in the province, figures that continue to grow at a rate of 40 marriages per year.
Vietnamese bride in S. Korea (illustrative photo)
Starting from a few marriages with South Korean men several years ago, it has now become a trend in Quang Yen Town's Nam Hoa Ward.
According to the Quang Yen Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, three quarters of the women who chose to marry South Korean men belong to families with have several children and face economic difficulties. Many of them have low education levels or have experienced divorces.
There are concerns that these marriages are not for love, but for financial benefit, with families just wanting their daughters to marry foreigners because they hope it will change their lives for the better.
Le Thi Dut, a local in Nam Hoa Ward said, "My neighbours married off their daughters to foreigners after an introduction through relatives. The people who have already got married introduce men to others in the town. Many girls just stay at home after finishing high school to wait for their turn to marry South Korean men. In the next few years, men in our commune might not have anyone left to marry."
Although the government has placed a ban on the issue, the bridal network continues to operate in guest houses or hotels where several men and women will cohabit for a few days.
The process is very simple, and totally dependent on the visiting men to decide whether they are happy with the match. In many cases, the bride doesn't even know who her husband is or what his family is like until she travels to South Korea. Despite all that, locals are still ready to gamble with their lives.
"There are a lot of girls here married to South Korean men, they think they'll make a fortune." Vu Hien, another local in Nam Hoa Ward shared.
A bride that had to return to Vietnam said that due to the huge differences in culture, language and customs, most of them encountered miserable situations and unhappiness. The men could be very violent and old-fashioned, or worse, the husband could be deformed or sickly.
Vu Duy Phong, an official at Nam Hoa Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs, said the ward currently had ten brides that had returned to Vietnam but haven't divorced or had their administrative problems resolved. These women's families are mostly poor and now also have to care for little kids from broken marriages, meaning they will encounter even more hardship.
The prime example is case is of Cao Thi Hien who returned to Vietnam after ten days living in South Korea. Her father said, "To be able to let her marry, my family had borrowed VND12 million. Casting the money aside, what worried me most is my daughter doesn't have divorce papers, what will she do?"
Most of the girls return after their failed marriages deeply in debt. The money lost to the matchmakers and missing personal identification papers also cause great difficulties. However, many girls chose to bow their heads and accept the situation, and because of low self-esteem, won't return to their hometowns.
The ones who marry foreigners and are able to send money to their families in Nam Hoa Ward are few and far between.
Another bride who returned said these marriages were matched by pimps and madams and most of the South Korean men who come to Vietnam to look for bride either had diseases or were sick, or people who couldn’t find happiness in their homeland.
Unfortunately, this trend continues in Nam Hoa Ward and other localities with women still harbouring dreams of another, better life.