Brides on sale

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When the transaction is primarily commercial in nature, marriages are made in hell.

She saw marriage to a wealthy foreigner as an escape from "private misfortune," but V had no idea what she was letting herself in for.

After living with her South Korean husband for less than a month, the Vietnamese woman in her twenties had to flee.

She was on the verge of hysteria as she narrated her harrowing ordeal to Thanh Nien.

Through a match-making agency, V met a South Korean man with the family name of Kwon in his 50s. He said he was a construction engineer with a monthly salary of US$7,000 and had been divorced once.

In South Korea, V and her husband lived in a two-bedroom apartment and Kwon bought her a telephone and a computer for her room.

But she soon learnt from neighbors that she was the fourth wife of the man who had previously married two Korean women and later a Vietnamese wife.

She also discovered that his previous Vietnamese wife had spent less than a month with him, and also escaped.

And the "construction engineer" was always at home, never going out to work. He told her he had been given time off to enjoy his new life with V.

She got panicky as her husband made incessant demands for sex.

He wanted it everyday and sometimes engaged in "queer acts" with her at home, in the elevator, car and on way to visit their friends', V said. He even abused her when he was watching television, not allowing her to return to her room.

He showed no concern for his partner's feelings and was willing to have sex immediately after a quarrel, V said.

Once, after a few days of living together, V refused him because she was tired, and he immediately grew angry.

He uninstalled all the equipment in her room, including the telephone, the computer and even took away her clay piggy bank that she kept to save small change.

The following day, he came to apologize and requested V to agree to have sex with him once every two days.

"It was very painful."

During one of their frequent quarrels, he threatened to strangle her. V then drew out a knife from the kitchen box, gave it him and told him to kill her if he can't respect her as a human being.

She knew then that she had to get away from him.

She approached the South Korea-based match-making agency (PIM) that had arranged the meeting between her and Kwon, and insisted on the divorce despite all their efforts to effect a reconciliation.

Finally, they threatened that V had to give back all her wedding gifts including jewelry, mobile phone, and souvenirs that her husband gave her, in "accordance with Korean customs."

In the days she waited for the trial, V was cut off from the telephone and banned from cooking. She survived in the apartment with a package of instant noodles she had brought there from Vietnam.

After court ruled on the divorce, V was forbidden from entering the apartment by security staff of the apartment building.

Match-fixing

V stressed to Thanh Nien that although the whole affair was fraught with problems, it was a completely legal affair.

She was introduced to Kwon by a legal agency the Marriage Assistance Center (MAC) under the Ho Chi Minh City Women's Federation.

After a brief wedding party within a week of meeting each other, the husbands left for South Korea and the Vietnamese brides were grouped together in a two-story building at 36/20 Giai Phong Street in Tan Binh District, while legal documents were finalized for them to leave the country.

During this period, the brides were given courses in Korean culture, custom and tradition, cooking and flower decoration.

Everyday, a MAC staff delivered money for food. When V was staying there in late 2007, she and 15 other brides were given a total of VND35,000 ($2).

She demanded better food rations and the sum was increased to VND50,000 ($3) a day.

V said she knows many of her compatriots in South Korea were also ill-treated and sexually abused by their husbands or husband's relatives.

They were also beaten but refused to divorce for fear of staying far away from their children, being sneered at by neighbors in Vietnam, or unable to return her payment of VND40 million.

Recently, Th, a bride introduced by the MAC, tried to commit suicide but she was luckily rescued, V said.

Mutual trust

In an interview with Thanh Nien, Nguyen Thi Bach Tuyet, MAC director, affirmed that her agency cooperates with South Korean company PIM in the match making service.

Introducing Vietnamese brides to foreign men whose identities are not confirmed is quite dangerous. So her center joined hands with PIM to provide better service, with the permission of the HCMC Women's Federation, Tuyet explained.

"We cooperate on the basis of mutual trust."

The South Korean company is responsible for investigating and sending personal information about South Korean bridegrooms to Vietnam.

"In the last two years of cooperation, most information they gave us was exact and reliable."

Tuyet also emphasized that the two agencies only introduced both sides and created the opportunity for them to meet and learn about each other, and there was absolutely no coercion or force to enter the marriage.

Her agency had introduced only 256 local women to be the wives of South Korean men since its establishment in 2003. Meanwhile, each month the South Korea General Consulate in HCMC granted visas to 400 Vietnamese women for marriage-related permanent residence in their country.

The limited number shows MAC prioritizes careful selection, Tuyet said. She conceded that a week was not enough for two people to meet and get married, but the decision is made by the Vietnamese brides, and MAC and PIM respect their selection.

The pledge to refund VND40 million if a divorce took place in the first six months, is required to make the wives be more responsible with their decision, Tuyet explained.

She also confessed that her agency could not help them much in South Korea, except to request assistance from South Korean authorities or the PIM company.

Reported by Quang Thi

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