Generalizing the migrant women in Korea

(Migrant women referred to here are those who are married to Koreans and living in Korea.)
I met my friends Wendy, Cathy (Korea Times) and Jasmin (Love in Asia) last Saturday. I brought my son with me so I wasn’t able to sit and talk with them for a long time. Seonggyu (my son’s name) just wouldn’t sit down and listen to the ajummas (except for Cathy) talk. He had to constantly drag me outside the coffee shop of Wendy’s apartment.
Anyway, one of the things we talked about was the heated discussion that occured on this blog last week. I kept mum and didn’t reply to any of the comments then. Not because I didn’t have anything to say but I was enjoying the show.
Jasmin talked about the different kinds of migrant women she had encountered while doing the show “Love in Asia.” Surely, she has met more migrant women in Korea more than anybody I know. Last Saturday night, she was also a guest audience (huh?) in a panel discussion on EBS regarding the flight of migrant women.
We both agreed that one commenter on this blog is right about his observation that it’s generally perceived that Korean men marry women from third world countries not out of love and if there are exceptions, they won’t change the general perception. He just wrote his arguments a bit arrogantly.
This is true in the Philippines and in Korea. People in both countries believe that Filipinas marry foreigners to have a better life. Koreans also believe that Korean men marry Filipinas (or women of other nationalities) because they couldn’t marry from their own. And they probably wouldn’t believe otherwise.
While I agree that there are Filipinas who marry foreigners for a better life, in general women set their own standards when finding a husband whether they marry a foreigner or not. And women in general would want to marry up.
Going back to generalizing the married migrant women in Korea, it is also generally
perceived that only the Korean men from the rural areas marry foreign women. I went back to the article I posted in my other blog about the number of Filipinas married to Koreans. The article said that 25 percent of foreign spouses live in Seoul, and about 30 percent live in Gyeonggido including Incheon. I think that perception isn’t true now. It could’ve been true two decades ago but times have changed and statistics shows that. As stated before, it’s difficult to change the general perception even with supporting evidences.
Do all Filipinas who are married here met their Korean husbands through a marriage agency? The general perception is that most did. In my group of friends (about 11), only two got married through an agency. The rest met their husbands while they were in the Philippines for one reason or another.
Were they all whirlwind romances? My friends often talk about how they met their husbands and how long they’ve known each other before getting married. Some of my friends married their husbands after six months of knowing each other. Some had spent years.
Are all migrant women battered wives? Of course not. If all migrant women here are battered or have been battered, then they wouldn’t be news anymore. I’ve heard of stories of abused foreign wives. Those news aren’t different from the ones I’ve heard in the Philippines. I guess then we could all agree that abusive husbands come from different nationalities. Among my 11 friends, only one was physically abused by her husband. (My other friends said that when you’re married you’re not supposed to go to nightclubs wearing seductive clothes and partying with other men.) Just because I don’t know anyone else who is abused doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen.
In my six years, I am often asked questions about my married life. One of the those that really made me laugh was “isn’t your life here more comfortable than in the Philippines?” from a Korean. It’s not that life in Korea isn’t convenient but I had a more comfortable life in the Philippines, where I never had to lift a finger to have something to eat or have clean clothes to wear, worry about paying bills and so on.
Women here have their own reasons for marrying their Korean husbands. I don’t approve of agency- and cult-arranged marriages. I believe that marriage is sacred and that people should only marry for the right reasons. (I also think that once a person signs a marriage certificate, he or she is bound by its obligations.)
I know of people who got married through agencies and who didn’t know their husbands beforehand. It’s not really my business to judge them. Some of them are really nice who wouldn’t harm a fly. Some of them didn’t have the chance to go to school and help themselves. I just wish that they are safe and hopefully happy with their lives. I also hope that the more educated people will be more understanding and less discriminatory.


  1. I think this is a really interesting post as I’m a Canadian and married to (but now seperated from) a Korean man. I found that during our years together people often expressed surprise at the fact that I – a “normal” Canadian woman – would marry a Korean man. Some people even bluntly asked me if my life was terrible in Canada, or wondered if I was pregnant when I got married. 🙂 Also, a lot of people – especially at immigration offices, assumed I was Russian and really srutinized my passport, etc.
    I often felt that people really had preset views and notions about foreign women and weren’t ready to change those ideas. Of course, Korea isn’t a country that has had (until recently) a large or even notable community of cross cultural marriages, but still – being continuously stereotyped sucks!
    Anyway, good blog! Cheers!
    melissas last blog post..Smatter? Can cheer me?

  2. *****In my six years, I am often asked questions about my married life. One of the those that really made me laugh was “isn’t your life here more comfortable than in the Philippines?” from a Korean.
    ~~~~~this is very interesting…a lot of Koreans asked me the same question…but I always say NO!Koreans get that very surprised look whenever they hear my answer…then they usually follow-up the question with “if I could choose betwen Korea and the Philippines, where will I choose to live?” I say PHILIPPINES! Then they don’t seem to get the reason why…. Honestly my life in the Philippines was more convenient and relaxed…..why do I bother staying in Korea?The only answer is…. because of LOVE for my husband.
    chers last blog post..Korean Desperate Housewives???

  3. hi ate! i actually wanted to comment again in that post but i didn’t have the time.
    kkk, i actually rewrote this comment since i didnt realize it’s as long as your post already…
    oh, i was boldly asked by a teacher “do you need to send money to philippines?” for the curious from the lot, i bravely answered “no, my family doesnt need my support. i have 5 other siblings and we all graduated from universities already. we all have work now.” but she’s slow so she further asked “how about your husband, how do you communicate?” i calmly answered “oh, you havent heared him talk yet whenever he fetches me here? he speaks english well. he was my interpreter when the owner hired me”..
    it really takes some time to overshadow whatever negative or wrong doings has been done or whatever negative news they’ve heard..
    and yes, i lived a more comfortable life in philippines too. as for alex and me, we are still considering the possibility of staying there instead… he saw that one of my brothers has 2 nannies for his 3 kids. he said he wanted that comfort for me too, kkk…

  4. being outside of Korea, i often “just” come across stories about battered foreign wives in Korea, and the news that i read here mostly covers the stories of agency arranged marriages with failed, sad results. i think this is because the media thinks these are the news worth writing about. it is good to talk about these things, and that we should keep educating people that not all foreign wives there marry for money or for a better life, that there are marriages based on real love and attraction, and that not all foreign wives are battered.
    kaynis last blog post..Photo Tagged

  5. oh ate forgot to tell you my reply to your invitation last friday was interrupted po pala. didnt know about it. i just saw it last sunday night while studying the features of my mobile phone. i texted i wasn’t sure and thank you but last saturday we had to baby sit for my brother in laws kids since he and his wife had to go to her hometown to see her ailing mother.
    we also saw ate Jazz on that EBS show last saturday. Alex called his sisters to watch the current show so they could see her, kkk…
    jehans last blog post..Korean Valentine’s Day

  6. “oh, you havent heared him talk yet whenever he fetches me here?”.. ~ balh, blah, blah
    are you a teacher too? obviously not, cause you don’t know the verb fetch is commonly used for inanimate objects. you should say ‘pick-up’. and btw, you misspelled the word ‘heard’

    1. hi Jehan! I didn’t even proofread what I wrote (too lazy eh) kaya redundant ang mga words na ginamit at minsan mali pa usage pero sige na lang… risky talaga pag online ano? Namali ka na ng spelling, nige-generalize ka na agad 😀

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  8. I agree with ate Jehan. Let people believe what they want to believe then prove them wrong. Ahhhh Don’t you love the euphoric feeling of seeing people die of shame for having twisted thoughts? Nyahaha But seriously, why think about what other people say?
    edens last blog post..Spotted at Chilis etc.

    1. Hi Eden! That’s just my point, why do we have to always prove that we are not what people think we are? What matters are the opinion of people who matters to us, but you know it’s annoying when you meet people who think they know everything. Whenever I meet a Korean who asks about me and my husband, I just answer honestly and I always treat their inquiries as curiousity because whatever they know had been fed to them by the media.
      I just wish that our fellow Pinoys who’ve been blessed with a good life and a good education wouldn’t belittle our less fortunate countrymen. Just count your blessings and wish them good luck.

  9. hi ate betchay and everyone~
    please allow me to comment on the general perceptions according to what i am experiencing
    *Korean men marry foreigners for the reason that they couldnt marry in their own country and they usually come from rural areas
    ***I strongly disagree. Won Seok (the father of my child)is from Seoul. He is good looking, works in a prestigious international accounting firm, drives a luxurious car and is young. Do you think by these he couldnt find women?..hhhmmmmmppp…he chose me. ^^
    *Foreigners from third world countries marry koreans for convenience
    ***I don’t think so. I am even for a fact hesitant to live in Seoul with him because I am honestly not confident to leave my comfortable life in Cebu.(my comfortable life means..somebody cooks for me, somebody sits my baby, I can party all night with my colleagues(if I want to),I can shop the things that are not so needed and I can rely on my supportive family anytime)- this is not for the sake of boasting but I would just like to emphasize that I chose Won because I love him and i found in him what I was looking for (over my long time American citizen boyfriend-if we are talking about convenience). Im sure you know what I mean.
    *Whirlwind romance
    *** Is one year and more still considered “too quick”?
    I actually don’t want to explain myself to anyone especially to Koreans who still “stereotypes”… but because ate betchay had been so good to me(im not sure if she knows why t.t ), then I had to back her up with my own story. hehehe

  10. To Betchay:
    “He just wrote his arguments a bit arrogantly”
    – Sorry, but im happy because you said “but I was enjoying the show” 🙂
    I just want to comment on your replies to some of the other readers post
    “why do we have to always prove that we are not what people think we are? What matters are the opinion of people who matters to us” – I totally agree with this. Believe it or not hehe 🙂
    “..I didn’t even proofread what I wrote (too lazy eh) kaya redundant ang mga words na ginamit at minsan mali pa usage pero sige na lang… risky talaga pag online ano? Namali ka na ng spelling, nige-generalize ka na agad :D”
    – Imho, spellings, grammar mistakes and other typos in forums, no need for pointing it out directly and specifically. We are all pinoys anyway. I think what warrants a correction (or a comment) are (pseudo)”factual” claims, at least to prevent further misinformation. Although i respect that reader’s prerogative to comment.

  11. Hi te betch and to all readers…
    Anyway, My comment has nothing to do with the topic, I just wanna greet everybody “HAppy Valentines day!!!

  12. hi ate betchay! it was just okay…
    even writers, great writers (from every field) we admire very much have their own editors.. even President Bush had mistaken APEC with OPEC.. at least i wasnt told “are you a President too?” (kkk) and even two of the books we use at school have typo errors that i did try to point out to the director.
    and like arvinsign said, we are pinoys anyway. we’ve grown comfortable using terms which we think are correct over the correct ones.

  13. to wonslove:
    I know you are happy and lucky about your situation. And you have all the right to disagree with the general perception (basing it from your personal experience). The sad fact is, general perceptions are usually based on numbers of cases rather than individual stories. Its really a case to case basis.
    As an analogy, If i will say for example that a certain “B” movie is crappy (because of so many reviews, comments, low ranking in charts, discussions etc.), then the general perception is that its a crappy movie. There is an overwhelming evidence for the argument. But the thing is, that view will not apply to all since there is a probability that i will meet someone who will say that, that “B” movie is the best movie for him/her and he/she enjoyed it very much . Because we are all bounded by our subjectivities. But in cases like this being objective makes more sense (at least for me).
    In summary, a personal view (experience) of one or few observers about that movie will not affect the view of the majority. Thats a social fact.
    You have all your reasons when you made that decision, and only you knows best whats the truth about your story. It seems your happy about it and thats very good for you. There is no better key to a happy married life (with locals or foreigners) than making that decision (to get married) without any external pressure from your church/cult, friends, family and society in general.
    Regards to Won Seok 🙂

  14. So glad to hear that there are lots of happily married Pinays in Korea.
    One thing annoying though is that there are women who still LIVE UP to that ‘general perception’ then complain and whine about their lives every chance they get like those were forced into them but in fact they made their OWN choices.

  15. You know what ate, I don’t really care either. I’m ready to leave my comfortable life here too if a Korean guy [with stable job, degree holder, responsible] asked me for a relationship. Hahaha Pero syempre, I won’t do anything without my own backup plans. You should, at least be able to stand on your own, di ba? Just in case…
    edens last blog post..Chocolate

  16. harhar betch~ another attention(debate(?)grabber…
    enihoo… i might just be reiterating the content of some of the comments in this post and all other posts’ related to this one.
    someone once told me that people tend to think bad when faced with things they don’t know.
    and when i started showbiz(?)harhar) i knew i’d be getting comments and judgements from a lot of other people, but i believe in one thing…
    people who judge you and say bad things against you, who doesn’t personally know you doesn’t mean a thing. Point is they don’t know the real you(so they probably have no idea what they’re talking about), so why worry ’bout what they say, aight? 😀
    but if people who does know you begin to say bad things against you, then you probably are doing something wrong and that’s worth your worry. 😀
    going to my 15th year here in Korea… i’ve had my share of all the troubles everyone’s writing about here. and i realized that the more you defend yourself the more people push you.
    someone here said it’s about the numbers and i do agree, hopefully everyone’s smart enough to realize that the, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” phrase doesn’t apply here.
    (belated)happy valentines day to all!
    jans last blog post..Basic Korean for Foreigners’ New Timeslot

  17. hi jan..
    I totally agree with you and your views regarding judgments from people who know you personally and people who dont. Thats exactly right.
    But usually we pinoys have a common trait of being very sensitive especially to social issues(negative). Irregardless whether the comment made by someone applies personally to us or not. Its the same thing about positive comments about pinoys in general. We always tend to feel good about it (and ride on it), although there is a possibility that the positive trait mentioned dont really reflect what we are personally as an individual.
    I was infamous in the other post about pinoy english teachers for example because of my opinion. In that forum, i noticed that many people tend to think very positive about our capabilities in general as an english teacher. And what i said is, being a filipino does not guarantee a near perfection close to the standard of being an ESL. Its a case to case basis, there will always be exceptions.
    Its the same thing when i made comments about Koreans marrying foreigners, and vice versa. The point that i dont like generalizations, means i believe in individuality. I can say perhaps that in general (widely perceived), inter racial marriages are caused by so and so…however i know that Miss X, Miss Y and Miss Z (and a hundred others )were a different case because i know a lot about them (at least personally), Thats my point, we are individuals. We have different reasons, we have different skills but we have common traits. We are all pinoys bounded by common social traits (good and bad), but we were molded differently subject to our personal environment, religion, peers, social status, influence of family etc. So in the end, we are individuals. Most of the time, our big decisions in life is a reflection of these factors.
    btw, goodluck to your showbiz career 🙂

  18. hey betch,
    ayan updated na ako sa pinaguusapan niyo nila Jaz and Wendy last saturday! ^^
    happy v-day! ^^

  19. to arvinsign:
    hi. thank you for being objective and even you sound to me that you dont agree that im really happy of my situation, i dont want to argue with that. what matters is that i know myself more than others do. even if they are bitter about others happiness(not pointing to anyone reading heheh). and i dont have the slightest will to change peoples perception. i think all i did was lay some facts. and if statistics disagree with that, i know theres no use contradicting, its science. but with feelings, we know theres always an exception…its feeling.
    thank you though.

  20. hello wonslove..honestly i think you are so sincere. I admire you for that. Im happy for you and i wish you a happy life.

  21. Ugh. And talking about our being good teachers…visit and “por dios por santo” would be but just a natural exclamation. There are a lot of good English teachers and speakers in the Philippines, but if their ‘fellow teachers’ won’t be grammatically responsible enough before going out in public, then their credibility could be watered-down.
    I’m really proud of this blogger who gives a damn to her entries. Keep up the good work Ms. Betch.

  22. Elliot is right. Visit that website. I think “por dios por santo” (which i said before in the other post/topic) is the right word to use, or perhaps a stronger word will do. 🙂 Delusion is an illness, and if done by a group of people, then its chaos. I mean it.

  23. there are a lot of educated native speakers who are patiently doing free teacher trainings, why don’t educated, smart Filipinos in Korea or in the Philippines do the same way, instead of putting down their fellow Filipinos.

  24. Your suggestion is good. Now is it doable? Unlikely.However i think the point is not about their skills, its not even putting them down or anyone. Its about some people going out on public (via internet, writing letters to newspapers, making ads etc) and flaunting that they are good English teachers (on the basis of only god knows).
    Now, is that right or wrong? For me its not good. Because it would result to a backlash to the more deserving ones. Stereotyping is very prevalent among Koreans. Im sure you know what i mean.
    Life is hard i know, so i can understand why this is happening. But i think the best way to at least regulate that is by a strict quality control from the government. Some sort of an examination or test. This goes also for any other jobs. For me, what i want is prioritize (give the jobs to) the deserving ones first, while at the same time educating and training the rest. Lets market our best people first ala image investment, then later on the whole country will benefit from it.

  25. ate, i’m currently listening to tbs efm’s Soul of Asia… oh, just the name “Anna” made me really excited and when the “Anna” started talking, ang nasabi ko “si Ate Betchay to”…

  26. oh, lighten up people! this is supposed to be fun.
    for those who had corrected some for the sake of making them look bad: shame on you… you just made yourself look like asses. leave the corrections in school, please.
    those who made the mistakes: nothing. because it’s none of my business. just try and check next time.
    and to the writer: touché on the topic. i had the whirlwind-romance. and being a yuppie and my dads’ pet before leaving and facing the stupid prejudice here… well, i live in Gwangju, go figure. =)
    reijenes last blog post..The Blogger

  27. hi there,,paano b kumuha ng korean visa,,kasal n kmi ng husband ko korean,and i plan to apply a korean visa spouse, ano bang mga kailngan and how to do, plz give me a tips about that,tnx godbless all

  28. I really appreciate all of you Filipinas married to Koreans living in Korea. I am also married to a Korean but we decided to live in Philippines due to our work and at the same time let my son finish elementary here. We are planning to go back to Korea after five years. This is only for the sake of acquiring citizenship. At present, I’m about to finish my MA Education major in English, I’m still planning to continue the doctorate program. In between, I will be taking fast track MA sped so that I can work in US after sometime and my son can study there.
    Miss Betchay, which has a higher salary in Korea… a translator of Korean to English or Chinese or a teacher in Hagwon. I need to earn much when we go there… I am also perfecting my Chinese and Korean these days…

    1. hi lucy! it really depends. i know a Filipina ESL teacher who’s earning 10 million won a month but that’s like finding Boracay in Korea… if you’re like Jasmine (of Love In Asia) who speaks korean like a native, you could earn as much as she does… average hagwon salary is about 2 million won

  29. Thanks for the reply Betch… I am really encouraged to continue and intensify my preparation today. By the way, is there a way for me to be connected to the Filipina ESL teacher so that I can ask some tips? I really want to prepare well.
    Thank you very much… Anyway I still have much time to prepare… I really appreciate you!

  30. Hi ms. Betchay.. 🙂 Thanks for sharing your thoughts and news out there ^_^.
    Anyway my comment is simply short. I still believe in the powers of Love. :)))

  31. To think that love can’t happen between any two people is ignorant at best, and xenophobic at worst.
    And even for those man and women who marry in pursuit of better life, instead of for love, I don’t understand the need to judge others for that. How is it anyone’s business why two people decided to marry (unless somehow they broke a law, but that’s not the issue here anyway)?

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