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http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/op ... 26753.html
Gender Equality for Foreign Husbands
By Michael Stevens
To clarify for readers of this newspaper, I am a foreigner who has lived and worked in Korea for many years. I have a beautiful Korean wife that for the last seven years has been my faithful partner and mother to my six-year-old daughter. We are not rich and I am not part of any multi-national company doing business in Korea. I am clearly what most people would consider a regular working man trying to raise a family in Korea.
Just recently a few other men and myself were discussing the problems unique to us in being foreigners married to Korean women as distinct from the problems ``normal'' couples face. This is what I would like to call inequality, in that the Korean government and Korean people look upon us differently when it comes to helping us deal with social problems everyone faces. It also seems funny that the subject of foreign men married to Korean women is never discussed in the local newspapers, as if we don't matter.
Sure, foreign men generally do not have to face the abuse and hardships that plague foreign women in the rural areas of Korea. However, we do face some of the same barriers, such as not being accepted into Korean society as equals. Also we face the same problems with language and cultural differences as our female counterparts. One of the biggest is the fear that our children will be treated differently or not accepted by their peers in school or the local community.
An example of problems we must deal with are in the banking system in which foreigners are looked upon as being a flight risk, as if we were criminals looking to steal the bank's money. Because of this fact, foreign husbands are usually unable to get adequate bank loans in order to purchase homes or even a car in this country.
For most it is also nearly impossible to receive a Korean credit card; even though many of us have a good credit rating in our home country and make the same or even more money than the average Korean husband. Korea is very unfair to foreign men that have to support and raise a Korean family in this country. Most of us want to be good husbands and fathers, yet the government does nothing to help us provide adequate credit and housing for our families.
There is a government run agency called the ``Transnational Marriage and Family Support Center, (a subsidiary of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, and the Korea Consumer Agency) in which foreign spouses are given 200 hours of free Korean language lessons and are taught about Korean culture, which is not normally an option for foreign men that have to work all day including many Saturdays. Foreign wives' husbands being Koreans are also able to secure bank loans for homes and are given credit cards with little or no problem. Foreign wives have every chance to start a new life in Korea. Yet the men must struggle with the culture, the language and inadequate housing for his family. Husbands that choose to stay in Korea for their wife are hindered by society and by a lack of compassion from others in dealing with these issues.
The government and the Korean people should do their best to make Korea a friendlier place for foreign spouses including foreign men. Western societies such as Canada and Australia are several steps ahead in terms of embracing people of diverse origins, races, languages and religions. I am not saying that Korea should hastily apply foreign-based multiculturalism. Since there's still a need to adjust it to the Korean context, for Korea is not a nation formed of immigrants but of natives that have long shared common values and bloodlines.
The first stage for true equality of gender for foreign spouses is to open up society, the banking system and guarantee basic human rights for all spouses, not just women and their children. The government can do this by implementing policies to encourage Korean business and financial institutions to recognize minority groups as equals. Further, the country needs to re-establish its identity as a people united not by blood or race but by citizenship and broaden education about the meaning of multiculturalism.
The writer is a student of biblical studies living in Guri, Gyeonggi Province. He can be reached at [email protected] .
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