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Mungyeong City under fire for trying to use Vietnamese women to fight population decline

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The Women Migrant Human Rights Center of Korea holds a press conference to condemn Mungyeong city's campaign to marry single Korean farmers and Vietnamese students in front of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, May 2021. Courtesy of Women Migrant Human Rights Center of Korea
The Women Migrant Human Rights Center of Korea holds a press conference to condemn Mungyeong city's campaign to marry single Korean farmers and Vietnamese students in front of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, May 2021. Courtesy of Women Migrant Human Rights Center of Korea

By Lee Yeon-woo

Mungyeong City, North Gyeongsang Province, has been advised to review its policies aimed at population growth as some of them clearly violate the human rights of migrant women, according to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK), Wednesday.

Among others, the NHRCK pinpointed that the city government's approach to tackling its dwindling rural population is problematic and discriminatory as it views migrant women simply as a means to increasing its local population.

In April of last year, an official document sent from the Mungyeong City Government to an unidentified administrative office that handles part of the duties of the Ministry of Justice's Korean Immigration Service, was disclosed online.

The document essentially outlined how the city government planned to initiate a campaign to help older rural farmers get married via arranged blind dates with Vietnamese women studying in Korea. It had other details such as possible financial assistance for couples married via the initiative. The document was made public because the office shared it on social media. Soon, the controversial document raised concerns and controversy on social media.

Women's and immigrants' rights groups criticized the city government for promoting transnational marriages as a means for helping older single men get married and filed a petition to the NHRCK against the city government for discriminating against Vietnamese female students.

In its written opinion, the NHRCK said that such an attempt to exploit immigrant women for population growth is based on the racist stereotype that Vietnamese women are "appropriate" to performing certain gender roles. It also pointed out that the policy resulted from gender stereotypes that limit women's roles to that of just giving birth and raising children.

"Even though the city government didn't have the intention to discriminate against Vietnamese students, considering them only as the wives of single farmers in rural areas ― regardless of their status as students ― contains racist bias against them," NHRCK said.

It advised the city government to prepare measures to prevent the recurrence of such discriminatory measures.

However, the NHRCK turned down the women's and immigrants' rights group's petition, as it believed the policy didn't cause specific damage, considering the fact that the uploaded document was deleted soon after.

Mungyeong City expressed regret for not examining the policy thoroughly and said that their intention was only to prevent bad cases of international marriage and help immigrant women settle down, while promoting population growth at the same time.
Lee Yeon-woo yanu@koreatimes.co.kr


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