This was first posted on Apr 22, ’08 6:35 PM as “Marriage-ready” on

I read an interesting article a month ago on the phenomenon of inter-marriages between Korean men and Vietnamese women. It read like the 21st century version of mail-to-order brides, except that instead of exchanging snail mails for months or years and pictures thereafter, the whole deal is sealed within five days.

Thanks to budget airlines and seedy marriage brokers, the Korean men (some are almost the same age as the girls’ own fathers) can fly into poorer neighbors like parts of China, Cambodia, and Vietnam in the middle of the night, proceed straight to a karaoke bar where they make a short speech about themselves (with interpreter) to an array of potential brides-to-be. The hasty Q&A with the Vietnamese girls sound like a speed-dating event, though this one ends with the Korean man making a decision who among them to marry.

Blame the Korean women who, the article says, have become more focused on career and self-actualization efforts outside of marriage, thus leaving marriage-ready men without partners. That’s opportunity for poor women in other countries who try to use marriage as leverage for a better life. Of course, cultural, personal, and language differences creep into the marriage, as the follow up articles (here and here) note.

It’s not love that brought these couples together; it’s need. And both governments—Korea for men and Vietnam or Cambodia for the women—just facilitated it. Why are the governments involved? Perhaps it’s a short-term solution to a possible threat of social war in the long term. Best to keep those hormone raging middle-aged Korean men busy with domestics than be vulnerable to some form of political or social threats. And best to pawn the women in poorer neighbors. Fewer mouths to feed and remittances would flow anyway. Ah, I’m assuming.

But then, didn’t the US Federal Government do the same thing when it played a role in the “marriage” of ailing Bear Stearns and JP Morgan? The Fed bailed out Bear, an 85-year old financial behemoth, which gambled on mortgage securities and lost big time. Bear Stearns survived the Great Depression and a dozen recessions, only to rapidly unfold during this recent credit crisis afflicting the American economy.

The Fed agreed to a 28-day credit line to Bear, with JP Morgan in tow. From a much-criticized $2 per Bear share (less than 1/10th of Bear’s market price in March 2008) and eventually upped to $10, JP Morgan now has a its foot in the prime brokerage, which provides financing to hedge funds.

So the governments—Korea, Vietnam/Cambodia, and the US—dip their fingers into people’s lives, whether in the social or financial areas. (Surely, there are other governments that do, but they’re for another blog entry and another issue.) In either case, it was not love that brought them together. It was need. It was logic.

Both stories are already month-old or more. Among journalists, they’re hardly news for the day. But last night, they were to me.

I learned someone who’s dear to me is getting married in three weeks. It’s an arranged marriage of sorts. He learned about her from a shortlist of women his parents came up with after screening an inventory of prospects provided by matchmaking sites (ie. a WedSite), relatives, friends, name it. His parents have been nagging him for ages about getting married and have provided him several shortlists in the past. They met for the first time a day before their engagement, which was after the two sets of parents met to check if the stars and planets were aligned when they were born.

It’s a process that I could not easily identify with. It’s just too odd for my mindset, which has been shaped by Western ways. In a way, it influenced an outdated we’re-right-you’re-wrong view.

Obviously, they’re not marrying for love. Perhaps not even for need. It was just logical. They both think they’re marriage-ready. Love will come later. The important—and crucial—point is, the basics for a long-lasting relationship is all covered. Inevitable frictions may come their way, but sans the magnitude of problems that most soap operas are hinged on.

Sure, these don’t pass my ideals for romance. It’s too cerebral. i.e. He first had to assess if she’s has the right values, character, priorities. And she had to decide if he fit her own (and family’s) standards, too. What ever happened to being the ONE. Where are the butterflies in the stomach with the mere sight of a loved one? The flitter-flutter sensation when the other flashes a smile? The excitement, the thrill? (But then, with rampant break-ups, who said a romance-based bond is the right formula after all.)

So here’s a marriage that perhaps the government did not facilitate as much as tradition, culture and religion probably did. Yes, there will be some exchanges of financial values, with the dowry aspect and the 5-day-long marriage rites and celebration. Stretch that a bit and it’s almost similar to the Korean men and JP Morgan putting in their investments in the process of getting their “partners” to “bed.”

Apparently, marriages come in different permutations.

So what does this mean to me as a journalist? Offhand, just the reality that I bring my own standards and biases in the stories I do, and perhaps even those that I read about. But, I have to admit, the discipline of getting the sides of all those concerned in an issue (to balance the story) has tamed those beasts. Count in maturity, too. For example, I still don’t like politicians, but past experiences (and stories written) showed there are a few who mean well and work with the system, not just against it.

But that’s me. Unlike the Koreans, JP Morgan, and my Indian friend, I have no tax-payers, activists, in-laws to contend with.

Well, not yet.

One response to “Marriage-ready”

  1. hmmmm butterflies eh? people don’t look for it nowadays. if you’re a guy and you have a fat paycheck, you can get a trophy wife. if you are a girl with a face to die for, you can get a guy with a fat check. truth is….love sucks. love doesn’t lasts. marry for love and it will F*%# up your life. marry for money, your life would only be f*%#ed up once the money well is dried up . so you might as well just suck it up and be practical for once.

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