More South Koreans marrying foreigners

More South Koreans married foreigners last year than ever before, according to government statistics, a growing trend in South Korea where rural men increasingly seek brides from abroad. In 2005, 43,121 South Koreans tied the knot with foreigners, up more than 21 percent from a year ago, according to data released Thursday by the Korea National Statistical Office. That accounted for nearly 14 percent of total marriages in the country last year.

South Korea is racially homogenous, but international marriages have been on the rise _ particularly arranged marriages between rural South Korean men and women from nearby countries. There is a shortage of women in South Korean villages because many move to cities to seek their livelihood.

Of the 31,180 South Korean men who married foreigners last year, 2,885, or 9.3 percent, lived in rural towns engaged in either farming or fishing. Weddings to brides from abroad accounted for 36 percent of all rural South Korean men who were married last year.

In 2004, 1,814 rural South Korean men married foreigners, 27 percent of all rural South Korean who were married that year. International marriages of South Korean rural men are commonly arranged through matchmaking agencies, which organize meetings between prospective grooms and brides.

Among foreign brides, those from China topped the list at 20,635 last year, with Vietnamese next at 5,822, followed by 1,255 Japanese. Men from China were also the favorite for South Korean women at 5,042 grooms, followed by those from Japan at 3,672 and the United States at 1,413, reports the AP.


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