Recommendation on the Policy for Population Growth of Local Governments
-‘Marriage Project for young men in Rural Area’ has to be viewed from gender equality perspective-
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea(Chairperson Doohwan Song, hereinafter the ‘Commission’ or the ‘NHRCK’) recommended the mayor of A City (hereinafter the ‘respondent’) on 30 August 2022 to review the policy to promote population growth in the light of gender equality by taking various measures, including the provision of human rights education to the staff at the A City Office.
In the complaint filed, the complainants, including civil society organizations, claimed that it is discriminatory to see foreign students as a target for international marriage and display such view in the document ‘request for coordination to assist marriage of young men in rural area to promote population growth’(hereinafter the ‘Coordination Request’). The respondent sent the coordination request to the B Administrative Office(hereinafter the ‘Administrative Office’ or the ‘Office’), an agency providing immigration service on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.
The respondent replied that the Coordination Request was sent in the name of A City to the Administrative Office because the head of the Office suggested creating an meet-up opportunity between young men in rural area and foreign women who are in Korea to study. The respondent later found out, upon the filing of the complaint, that the Coordination Request was arbitrarily modified by the Administrative Office and by the time the respondent identified the problem, the Coordination Request was deleted from the internet. The project was halted, after the complainant requested the confirmation of facts.
The Commission’s Committee on Gender Discrimination Remedy dismissed the complaint as the Coordination Request was arbitrarily modified by the Administrative Office, not by the respondent and the document was deleted shortly after being posted. Though the Coordination Request was shared between the respondent and the Administrative Office, the Commission found it difficult to conclude the complainant experienced excessive harm because of the Coordination Request.
The Commission, however, conducted a review to provide an opinion regarding the case, pursuant to the Article 19(1) and the Article 25(1) on the ‘National Human Rights Commission of Korea Act’, seeing that it is problematic to use foreigners, including the students came to Korea to study, as a means to promote population growth.
Korea saw a sharp increase in international marriage since 1990s and with the ‘Integrated Support Measures for Married Women Migrants’ of the Government of the Republic of Korea, ‘Marriage Project for young men in Rural Area’ became a popular policy among the local governments. In this process, the policies for married women migrants were consistently criticized for seeing these women as someone who are in charge of giving birth and raising children.
The respondent tried to be a matchmaker for the women students from other countries and unmarried men from a rural area, without considering the various reasons why women came to live in Korea or trying to find out the actual demand for the Marriage Project.
Committee on Gender Discrimination Remedy saw that the purpose of the Marriage Project is to recruit foreign women who are willing to marry men in rural area and have children to contribute to population growth in Korea, and the idea of the project is based on the long-standing stereotype that women are in charge of the unpaid labor in a household, including caring for children and house chores.
The Committee also saw that international marriages in Korean rural area have always been accomplished under the context of forming a ‘normal family’ for Korean men, and Korean men’s perception towards these foreign women were ‘obedient’, ‘pure’ and ‘have a knack for maintaining a living’. The Committee decided even if there was no intention to be discriminative, the decision to go ahead with the project was made under the context of racial discrimination that the women from certain racial background are more adequate to take on gendered role.
Regarding the case, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea provided an opinion that the population growth policies have to be assessed in the perspective of gender equality and the measures need to be found and implemented to prevent the reoccurance of the case mentioned above.