Mungyeong is a gorgeous rural city in the North Gyeongsang Province of South Korea. While the city boasts breathtaking views that attract nature-bound tourists each year, its population has continuously dropped — especially as its largest business of coal mining has been discontinued and families have moved to more urban areas. Now, as a largely agricultural region, Mungyeong city maintains about 71K+ residents in population.
Obviously, the rapid decrease in the population has long been an issue which Mungyeong city officials desired to resolve. In their latest attempt, however, the city has received massive criticism on a national level — after the “Request For Cooperation” statement sent from the city became revealed to the public.
In the said “Request For Cooperation,” specifically asking for help from the immigration office, Mungyeong city claims they are looking to set up single men in the agricultural business with Vietnamese students who are in Korea to study abroad. It is stated the transnational marriage project is “to promote an increase of population and revive the city, amid the exodus of the younger generation — especially female.”
To promote an increase of population and revive the city, amid the exodus of the younger generation — especially female — from the agricultural business and the rural regions, Mungyeong City is launching a transnational marriage project and looking for your active cooperation in helping the older, single men ‘who have missed the right timing to get married’ get set up with Vietnamese study abroad students.
— Mungyeong City
The request, reportedly sent out in April 2021, then goes on to list the city’s current financial support policies for married couples who birth 1, 2, 3, or 4 children. The city promises to pay up to ₩30.0 million KRW (about $26,900 USD) in installments over 50 months, should the transnational marriage take place and lead to “population.”
That being said, a group of Vietnamese students in Korea have consulted the Korea Women Migrants Human Rights Center and the Gong Gam Human Rights Law Foundation to proceed filing an official complaint with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea against Mungyeong city — for “discriminating against the Vietnamese students and violating their human rights.”
The project is sexist and racist toward migrant women who are in Korea. The city shouldn’t even be promoting commercial transnational marriage. The idea is discriminatory against migrant women. It violates their rights to be treated equally. It violates their rights to pursue happiness.
— Korea Women Migrants Human Rights Center
One Vietnamese student who filed the complaint explained, “The study abroad students, including myself, are here on valid visas to pursue our educational goals. We’re not here to make money and we’re not here to look for husbands.” Other students also showed disappointment with the city’s “project,“ pointing out that the city “making a business out of transnational marriages” to solve their underpopulation problem is “simply disgusting and upsetting.”
It sounds like to me that the city believes it can marry off their old, single male population to study abroad students as a means to solve their underpopulation problem and it is simply disgusting and extremely upsetting. As a study abroad student myself, I’m extremely offended by how sexist and racist the idea is. Mungyeong city seems to think that Vietnamese study abroad students would gladly agree to marry whoever as long as we get the financial and visa support in exchange. Not only is this sexual objectification of us women, but also racial discrimination of Vietnamese people.
— A Vietnamese Study Abroad Student
Likewise, Koreans who have come across the media coverage are expressing unfiltered hate toward the city officials who planned and approved the whole nonsense.
- “It gives me the creepers to think that the city only sees the female students as tools to increase the population. Plus racism? For f*ck’s sake, PLEASE.”
- “They must be out of their minds to pursue something like this. What the f*ck?”
- “I honestly wonder what kind of people come up with these ideas…”
- “You know, this is embarrassing. But I hope foreign press picks up on this story and shames the f*ck out of the city. That’s going to be the only way they learn.”
- “Yeah, I hope Mungyeong city gets called out on a global level.”
- “What the f*ck… Why is this happening in 2021? This is f*cking gross.”
- “What is wrong with people, seriously!”
- “Leave the Vietnamese study abroad students the f*ck alone please.”
- “And to think these are the type of projects they’re funding with our taxes…?”
- “Those women are here to pursue education. What nonsense is this?”
- “Mm. Another typical bullsh*t day in Korea.”
Meanwhile, the Vietnamese students who filed the complaint demand and await Mungyeong city mayor’s official apology, as well as a promise to provide thorough training for the city officials on the topics of sexism and racism.
Mungyeong city is yet to respond.