Bernadine Wessel, ASC spoke on the subject of Immigrant Women in South Korea during the Nov. 4 Mission Talk at Newman University.
Immigrant women become wives to Korean men for a number of reasons. Some may be forced by their family for monetary gain. Some women are lured by promises of a simple life and financial security. Sister Bernadine said there may be the seldom case in which the immigrant woman finds herself in a truly happy marriage. But in most cases, true love is a fairytale.
In the early 2000s Sister Bernadine traveled to Korea to work as an English translator for the Sunday Mass spoken in Korean on behalf of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ. Unbeknownst to her at the time, Sister Bernadine was called to serve a greater purpose in Korea.
She recalled a case of a woman’s mother-in-law that forced her into another marriage in Korea (most likely for monetary gain). When the husband returned from work that day and noticed the absence of this wife, the husband’s mother said that his wife ran away. It is probable that the mother-in-law was contacted by a broker on behalf of a Korean suitor to facilitate the arrangement of a purchased bride.
Forced marriages are not as frequent as one would think.
“Brokers who would go to countries, recruit the young women – most of them would be in poor parts of the country – uneducated,” Sister Bernadine explained. “Every place no matter how poor has access to television and they have seen how modern Korea has become – and when [brokers] come to talk to them – of course they are quite willing to go.”
After becoming brides of Korean men, women are often mistreated, neglected and abused. At the time of Sister Bernadine’s stay in Korea, women were forbidden to divorce their husbands, leaving them with little hope to return to their home country. Some of these immigrant wives end up running away with nowhere to turn.
With the help of the Wichita Diocese, Sister Bernadine facilitated a women’s shelter to provide a rehabilitating safe house to help prepare these women to return to their home country.
Sister Bernadine explained why the mission of the shelter in Korea is important, saying “Everyone is loved by God and is worth the blood of Christ. All of the men and women are all persons of value because they are loved by God.”
Upcoming Mission Talk
Feb. 17 – ASC and Guatamala Study and Serve