South Korea Bans Abusive Men from Marrying Foreign Women

Recently, the Guardian reported that South Korea approved legislation to prohibit men with a criminal record of domestic violence from inviting foreign women to the country for marriage:

The ministry said the change was prompted by national outcry over footage that emerged in July showing a 36-year-old South Korean man physically and verbally assaulting his Vietnamese wife in front of their young child.

Footage of the assault, which occurred in the south-western county of Yeongam, shows the man slapping and kicking his wife and then repeatedly punching her in the head in front of their young child. “Didn’t I tell you that you are not in Vietnam,” he shouts.

And while that incident may have sparked the new law, here’s what researchers discovered in the country:

In 2018 a study by the National Human Rights Commission found that of 920 foreign wives in South Korea, 42% had suffered domestic violence, while 68% had experienced unwanted sexual advances.

Activists say that while a high proportion of migrant wives experience abuse, few report their cases to the police.

I found this story fascinating as a foreign woman married to a man from China, a neighbor to South Korea. While China has yet to draft any laws explicitly banning men with a criminal record on domestic violence from taking a foreign spouse, domestic violence in China had in recent years made headlines as well, thanks to a certain foreign woman.

Remember the case of Kim Lee, a white American woman battered by her Chinese husband Li Yang (who had enjoyed celebrity status in China over his popular “Crazy English” series)? Her Weibo photos revealing everything from a badly bruised forehead to a bloodied ear thrust her into the public spotlight. Eventually, she won a landmark divorce case in China that granted her the right to leave her husband over domestic violence. Her fight also sparked the passage of China’s first law prohibiting domestic violence.

I hope the new law in South Korea will serve as an important step forward as it shines a light on a vulnerable group of women.

What do you think about South Korea banning men with a history of domestic abuse from marrying foreign women?

On the Kim Lee and Li Yang Domestic Violence Story

Kim Lee's bruises as posted on Weibo
Kim Lee's bruises put a new face on her cross-cultural marriage to the founder of "Crazy English," Li Yang.

Just last month, I discovered a new celebrity couple in the cross-cultural community of Chinese men and Western women — Li Yang, the founder of Crazy English, and Kim Lee, his American wife. If only it weren’t because of revelations that Li Yang beat and battered Kim for many years.

If you’re in China, chances are you heard the news long ago. How Kim brought up the domestic violence by posting photos of her bruised body on Sina’s Weibo. That Li Yang admitted hitting his wife to the public, but then offered an unrepentant response.

If there was a “model Yangxifu” award, Kim Lee deserves it. She courageously shared her private turmoil with the public, starting a national conversation on domestic violence and spurring the Chinese government to reconsider dormant domestic violence legislation.

But Kim’s relationship with Li Yang could easily play into some of the worst cross-cultural marriage nightmares — and, I might add, negative stereotypes of Chinese men.

Of course, I don’t fault Kim for anything. She did the right thing. Still, a celebrity couple in the community of Chinese men and Western women in love makes the headlines… and, unfortunately, it’s for domestic violence. I couldn’t help but wonder — will some people come away with the wrong kind of message? Continue reading “On the Kim Lee and Li Yang Domestic Violence Story”