What are "Fake" and "Real" marriages? The experiences of Korean-Chinese marriage migrants in contemporary Korea

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Citations (Scopus)


For many women whose migration choices are permitted only under very limited conditions, those who lack capital tend to choose the path of migration by accepting employment in sectors with comparatively low cost of transaction. Many, however, opt for "marriage," a method in which the initial cost of transaction is typically paid entirely by the men (that is, their future "husbands"), as the fastest and cheapest way of entering South Korea. For this reason, "fake" or "paper" marriages become increasingly popular as a form of "safe" migration for foreign women, especially Korean-Chinese, Chinese, Mongolian women who would like to secure long-term residence and employment in Korea. While marrying a local man is "an important strategy for women in order to achieve economic and legal security" (Piper, 2004: 79), an increasing number of migrant women who eventually left their husbands have led the Korean media to publicly depict them as "heartless opportunists who actively exploit the South Korean men they marry" (Freeman, 2005: 81). This chapter argues that there is no fixed or clear demarcation between "fake" and "real" marriages in an analysis of migrant women's experiences in South Korea. Some women accepted "paper marriage" in the hope that the Korean men they marry would not take advantage of their lack of experience and understanding of the local culture and social environment. Others who consulted marriage brokers or agents to find "paper husbands" in Korea continue to live with their "paper husbands" to secure better prospects for gaining Korean citizenship. "Fake" marriages, if they can be described as such, therefore occur at the intersection of diverse forces, including the patriarchal nature of the migration regimes of the Korean government, the migration industry (which include marriage brokers and agencies), and these women's strategies in negotiating through difficult circumstances in the course of their struggle to overcome gender and racial discrimination in contemporary South Korea.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Marriages in the Time of Globalization
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9781617280368
Publication statusPublished - 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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