updated January 10, 2023
Here are two Filipina’s stories and various reports and investigations into the industrial scale illegal trafficking by the Unification Church (aka the FFWPU, Family Federation for World Peace and Unification). There is also a serious problem with women from Japan, see HERE.
Lydia was a slave in the US controlled by Korean leaders of the Unification Church.
Lenny was trafficked into slavery and prostitution in Korea through the Unification Church “Blessing”
Lydia Catina-Amaya started working at a factory in the Philippines at the age of 16. She was recruited by the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, also know as the Unification Church, and trafficked into the US in 1998. She was used as a slave by Korean church leaders. Her story is told in a podcast and in several articles and a conference video. When Lydia made an escape attempt, the Koreans tried to hunt her down. On her second attempt, with the help of several UC members, she got away.
Lydia, 46, is now a community organizer at Damayan Migrant Workers Association, NYC. She was born in South Luzon, Philippines
Lydia was recruited as a missionary for [the Unification Church] in the Philippines and was brought to the United States under the auspices of helping the church raise money. She spent some years as a personal assistant for church members and then was given a position as a domestic worker [in New York City] for the [Korean] director of the church. [Among other things, she looked after his three sons.]
On her work life: “They make me believe that “You are a missionary, you have to follow what I have to tell you.” So I just don’t know what to say, how to say no. I don’t know my rights. As soon as I came, they took my passport.
That was 24-hour job. I don’t have days off. I was always hungry. They didn’t give me an allowance, nothing!…. They didn’t give me a salary. I remember they gave me a coat and watches—Gucci—but they didn’t really treat me as a human being. One time I got sick, and I was told that I had a spiritual problem because I couldn’t do the same work I was doing before… It was very controlling. I couldn’t even talk to my family; I was not allowed to have a friend.”
“It was really hard to trust people again… It took me really a while to be empowered… I was traumatized, paranoid. You just need the right group and the right community. We want our survivors to know that they are safe. We can embrace them and support them.”
Lydia (in podcast): “They used my belief against me. I was trusting them because they were like religious people. I can’t believe that this happened to me in America.”
Lydia’s FFWPU / UC story is the second of the two stories in this highly recommended podcast.
(The first story is about Eudocia Tomas Pulido, known as ‘Lola’. See The Atlantic magazine feature that has stirred up a debate – link below.)
Lydia Catina-Amaya speaks at 25:30.
NPR • May 24, 2017
Thousands of Filipinos have been recruited by the FFWPU / UC, and even more Japanese.
It has been rumored that the family involved in Lydia’s slavery may have spent time in the Philippines and came to the US in 1992. They were active in New York City and New Jersey. They had three sons. Those details fit with what is known of Lydia’s case.
Republic of the Philippines – Office of the President. Documented Unification Church cases include women eventually sold into prostitution upon arrival in Korea.
Republic of the Philippines – Office of the President
Philippine Center on Transnational Crime
I – INTRODUCTION
The establishment of organized crime groups in our society has become the mid-wife of another intricate web of criminality. Its wide and long-ranging threats undermine the sovereignty of states, their economic stability, financial structures and their criminal justice system. This is the transnational crime of Money Laundering which organized crime groups, from drug syndicates, arms trafficking and the other burgeoning areas of criminal activity, to perpetuate their existence, expand their operations and institutionalize their presence in a mafia type fashion.
In capsule form, organized crime groups must launder their money from their crimes for two basic reasons: First, the money trail itself can become the evidence against the perpetrators of the crime. Second, the money itself can be the subject of suspicion, investigation and seizure. Money-laundering however, has three dynamic stages:
1. Moving the funds from direct association with the crime;
2. Disguising the trail to foil pursuit;
3. Making the money available to the criminal once again with its occupational and geographic origins hidden from view.
4. Trafficking in Persons
Trafficking of human beings, particularly women and children have reached an alarming level throughout the world.
In 1996, 984 Filipino women were married in a Korean sect ceremony to Korean Moonies, after being matched by a computer. A $2,000 fee was collected from the groom. Documented cases include women eventually sold into prostitution upon arrival in Korea.
The Roman Catholic Church of the Philippines tried to stop human trafficking of Filipinas by the Unification Church, which was a serious problem from the late 1980s to the mid 1990s. There were court cases against the UC.
The Philippines prohibits the business of organizing or facilitating marriages between Filipinas and foreign men. The Philippine congress enacted Republic Act 6955 or the Anti-Mail-Order Bride Law in 1990 as a result of stories that appeared in the local press and media about Filipinas being abused by their foreign husbands.
Korean immigration law demands immigrant wives live here for at least two years with an F-2 visa issued to spouses of Koreans before applying for Korean citizenship. If they divorce within two years and foreign spouses fail to prove in a courtroom that their Korean husbands caused the divorce, foreign wives must leave Korea before their visa expires.
We don’t have divorce in the Philippines and an annulment is costly and time-consuming. A Filipina married to a Korean couldn’t simply end her marriage by divorcing her spouse in Korea. That divorce wouldn’t be valid in the Philippines; however, a Korean spouse could divorce a Filipina wife. That leaves her with nothing if she’s not a Korean citizen. What’s worse is that if they have a child, the custody would most likely be given to the Korean father. She will also have to leave the country when her visa expires. This is why I always tell those who ask me for advice about marrying a Korean that they should think about it really carefully.
Kristine (not her real name), a 25-year-old Filipina, decided to run away from her Korean husband of five years after he tried to strangle her last April. She endured years of occasional physical abuse, but could no longer live with a man who nearly killed her.
Illegal recruitment of women by the UC in the Philippines
Many of the women came from the provinces – visited by middle-men connected with the Moonies. Young daughters of farmers in Nueva Ecija said that a Caucasian man arrived in their village with photographs of Korean men looking for wives. Women who showed interest in meeting these men were told to attend a seminar run by the Moonies in Cabanatuan City. Apparently the seminar is intended to educate women about the “ideal family” as a preparation for their meeting with their prospective husbands in Manila.
Since there is legislation banning introduction agencies in the Philippines, the women were advised by their recruiter to tell authorities that their relationships with these Korean men are genuine and that they have been in communication with them for some time. For his service, the recruiter gets $2,000 from each man. This amount, according to the Philippine embassy in Seoul corresponds with fees usually asked from Korean men wanting “housemaids” and “sex partners.”
by Emere Distor
from Making the Harm Visible. Global Sexual Exploitation of Women and Girls – Speaking Out and Providing Services by Aida F. Santos
“In 1994, a noticeable number of South Korean men came to the Philippines to begin their search for their Filipina brides; in 1995-96, hundreds of Filipino women were married in a mass ceremony to South Korean men through an organization called the Moonies. Protests over this wholesale of Filipinas were launched, and the case is now [in 1999] in the court in the Philippines.”
Aida F. Santos is the project director of the “pilot Project Against Trafficking in Women” currently being implemented by the Philippine Network Against Trafficking in Women. She was the Executive Director of WEDPRO, Inc., a Women’s NGO working with women in prostitution, since the early 1990s to 1998.
Moonies demanded $2,000 from Koreans who wanted to have Filipinas as “housemaids and sex partners.”
Philippine Daily Inquirer MANILA
by Bobby Timonera
Farmers’ daughters are Moonie targets
The Moonies are combing the Philippine countryside in search of farmers’ daughters to lure into their trap.
One such innocent, Carlita, who is in her 20s, was lucky to get away. Carlita, her face covered with a towel, occasionally lapsed into tears and silence as she told reporters of her ordeal. This is her story.
Sometime in November, the sect’s recruiters arrived at Carlita’s village in Nueva Ecija and asked the women if they would be interested in marrying Koreans. Photographs of Korean men were passed around.
“OK, we’ll see if we get to like them,” the women said.
They were told to attend a seminar at the sect’s church in Cabanatuan City. It was supposedly about the “ideal family.”
Later, they were asked to wear nice clothing, were made up, and photographed. Then they were told that should authorities ask them about their marriage plans, they should answer that they have been writing to and talking with the Korean men over the phone for some time.
Of the four women recruited, only three were matched with Koreans. One was apparently dropped.
One day the women were invited to go to the church’s office in Manila in the company of Korean men. Along the way, the Koreans embraced them.
Suddenly afraid, Carlita and another woman alighted from the vehicle near the Nepa Q-Mart market along Edsa in Quezon City. Carlita being a daughter of one of the peasant leaders of the Demokratikong Kilusang Magbu-bukid ng Pilipinas (DKMP), the other woman rushed to the DKMP office to report the incident.
But their friend who was left behind was brought to the Unification Church’s headquarters at 32 Samar Avenue in Quezon City.
It was this woman who told peasant leader Jaime Tadeo of the DKMP that a Caucasian, whose nationality she did not know, asked the Koreans to pay him $2,000.
It was not known if the amount was payment for the recruitment job. But it jibed with a report from the Philippine Embassy in Seoul that the Moonies usually demand $2,000 from Koreans who wanted to have “housemaids and sex partners.”
The transaction appears to be part of the sect’s fund-raising campaign.
Tadeo, along with Carlita, went to the Bureau of Immigration office in Intramuros to seek its help in closing the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity in Cabanatuan City.
“We believe they are just using their church as a front for illegal recruitment,” Tadeo said.
UC mass wedding of 1,000 couples probed for recruiting prostitutes, nannies
The mention of prostitutes in the newspaper article below is confirmed by:
Republic of the Philippines – Office of the President
Philippine Center on Transnational Crime
“Korean sect …. Moonies … Documented cases include women eventually sold into prostitution upon arrival in Korea.”
Philippine Daily Inquirer MANILA
by Bobby Timonera
Wedding bells set off the alarm.
Did the grooms offer to have and to hold their brides or did they offer them jobs?
This is what the Bureau of Immigration is trying to find out after the “mass wedding” held last January 23 between mostly South Korean men and nearly 1,000 Filipino women.
The exchange of “I dos,” the bureau suspects, may be an operation to illegally recruit domestic helpers and prostitutes.
Immigration Commissioner Leandro I. Verceles Sr. said his office will observe with “extreme caution” in approving the departure of the Filipino brides. He also ordered investigations into the suspicious weddings.
“This could be a case of mail-order-bride-in-reverse operation which is illegal under our laws,” the commissioner said.
The mass wedding of 984 couples at the Philippine International Convention Center was supposed to be only a religious rite and thus has no legal effect, Verceles pointed out.
It was under the auspices of the Seoul-based Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity whose members are also known as the “Moonies.”
They are named after the controversial Rev. Sun Myung Moon of South Korea, leader of the church.
The Rev. Chung-hwan Kwak, representing Moon, blessed the couples, which included people from the United States, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, but mostly South Korea.
Verceles said the Koreans probably came over for the wedding ceremony when immigration agents at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) prevented 300 Filipino women from departing last month. They claimed to be members of the same church as the “Moonies”.
Verceles dispatched immigration agents to the wedding site to gather the names of the couples.
At the same time, he also alerted immigration personnel at the NAIA to prevent the brides from leaving while investigations are being conducted.
Citing an intelligence report from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Verceles said that the “Moonies” had previously sponsored the recruitment of a large number of Filipino women to work in Korea.
The same report said that late last year, 184 Filipinas were brought to Korea aboard a chartered plane. They were reportedly brought to a training center where they were housed for three days before being deployed as domestic helpers and prostitutes.
The Unification church said it had no immediate comment.
Not first time
It was the second mass wedding conducted in Manila by the said church. Last year, 1995, about 3,000 Filipinos were married in a basketball gym in Manila as part of a mass wedding performed by Moon via satellite from Seoul. They were among 360,000 couples married worldwide in that ceremony.
“Originally, the blessing was available only to adherents of the Unification Church,” a statement from the group said. “Now, however, anyone wanting to (can) participate, regardless of religion, race or nationality.”
… Moon, a South Korea native, served 13 months in a U.S. federal prison on charges of tax evasion [perjury and document forgery] before being released in 1985. …
SUN MYUNG MOON INDICTED ON TAXES
By Arnold H. Lubasch
The New York Times
October 16, 1981, Friday
The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, head of the Unification Church, was indicted in Manhattan yesterday on charges that he had filed false tax returns omitting more than $150,000 of his income in a three-year period. According to the indictment, Mr. Moon deposited $1.6 million in New York bank accounts in his own name, used the money for his own purposes and failed to report almost all of the interest, amounting to more than $100,000, from 1973 through 1975. It also said he had failed to report $50,000 in securities that he had received in 1973. The 12-count Federal indictment also charged one of his top aides, Takeru Kamiyama, with assisting him and with committing perjury and obstructing the investigation. LINK
Catholic Church helps Filipinas running from violent UC marriages in Korea
In November 2009, Philippine Ambassador to South Korea, Luis Cruz, warned Filipina women against marrying Korean men. He said in recent months that the Philippine Embassy in Seoul has received complaints from Filipino wives of abuses committed by their Korean husbands that caused separation, divorce and abandonment. As language and cultural differences become an issue, the Filipina women are regarded as commodities bought for a price.
Korean FFWPU leaders made lots of money from “selling” hundreds of pure, faithful, Filipino sisters
Morpheus (former FFWPU / UC member):
“I was on a staff that helped organize picture matchmaking in the late 1990s. Rev. Moon would come in and match all these young Filipino sisters to older Korean men who were not even members. I’m not sure Rev. Moon was aware of the wheeling and dealing that would go on behind the scenes. Many of these farmers and land owners would mortgage their farm to be admitted to these picture matchings. The Philippine Government complained. Discovered later that Korean leaders made lots of money this way.” (22nd April 2015)
“Filipino people hate the Unification Church for selling off Filipina women to Korean men.”
“I recently met several Filipino people, and when I told them I was raised in the Unification Church, they were concerned. Their knowledge of the Unification Church is of young people in the Philippines on the street, selling rosaries and Catholic paraphernalia, hiding their Unificationist identity. Apparently Moonies over there are known for being young and being controlled by church leaders. This is a well-accepted fact in their country. Moonies are also known for their fasting, rejecting food till they reach their fundraising quota. Also, all these Filipino people, none who ever belonged to the church, told me that Filipino people hate the church for selling off Filipina women to Korean men.”
An extradition treaty meant Moon could have been charged with illegal recruitment and incarcerated in the Philippines. The UC then smashed the windows of the Philippine embassy in Seoul.
Violence by the Unification Church
– Republic of the Philippines Files Diplomatic Protest with Seoul
MANILA – The government has filed a diplomatic protest with South Korea after the Philippine Embassy in Seoul was damaged in a rally staged by members of the Unification Church, whose members are known as Moonies.
The Embassy filed the formal protest with the Korean foreign ministry on orders of Foreign Affairs Secretary Domingo Siazon. The embassy also asked for tighter police protection for its staff.
Based on the report from Seoul, demonstrations were held in front of the embassy by Korean members of the Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (HSA-UWC) on Feb. 13 and 14.
The demonstrators were able to cross police lines and smashed the windows of the embassy building.
The embassy said Korean policemen assigned to keep the demonstrations peaceful did not do anything to prevent the protest action from getting out of hand.
The demonstrations were spurred by the filing of charges with the Department of Justice by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against the HSA-UWC leaders for alleged violations of the mail-order bride law.
The NBI said the sect leaders were involved in illegal recruitment of Filipino women under the guise of “marriage” with the Korean nationals.
Immigration Commissioner Lenadro Verceles earlier banned the members of the sect who participated in the “mass wedding” from re-entering the country.
He also placed in the immigration’s hold departure list close to 1,000 Filipino “brides” of the “Moonies” to prevent them from leaving for South Korea.
Verceles said that the “mass wedding” performed by the sect was merely a ploy to bring Filipino women to South Korea to work as domestic helpers or prostitutes.
Verceles also described the mass wedding as illegal and unauthorized, saying that the celebrants did not have the authority to perform the ceremony as required by Philippine law.
… A 31st October 1996 GMA-7 Radio-Television Arts Network report states that an extradition treaty was signed between the Philippine and South Korean governments; members of the Unification Church, including its leader, Reverend Sun Myong Moon, could then be charged with illegal recruitment and incarcerated in the Philippines.
source: Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Church Organization and Its Networks for the Filipino Migrants:
Surviving and Empowering in Korea
by Toshiko Tsujimoto
Filipino diaspora is indeed a global phenomenon. Their living and working conditions have been much studied, as the number of overseas contract workers (OCWs) increased. The policies of the Philippine government as well as the host governments have also been examined. In contrast, the activities and role of non-government organizations (NGOS) have received little attention, especially those of the church. While the efforts for the protection of human rights and promotion of welfare can be observed among the migrants themselves, the presence of the Catholic church has been particularly significant in many parts of the world. The church is an indispensable organization for Filipinos in their spiritual as well as secular needs.
This essay focuses on one such church-based center in Seoul, the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center for Filipino Migrants, also known as the Filipino Catholic Center, or FCC, and especially pays attention to its support function. The FCC is organized and managed by Filipinos. I aim to show how Filipino migrants cope and deal with their concerns by utilizing support networks. …
Filipina Brides Who Got Married to Koreans under the Unification Church
Since February 2000, more than 300 Filipino women who joined a religious group, the Unification Church, and got married to Korean men, have been landing at Kimpo International Airport, and quite a large number of the women are running to the FCC to ask for help almost every day.
When talking about how they got involved in the religious group and came to Korea, they say their friends or coworkers in the Philippines asked them if they wanted to have Korean husbands. When they are recruited, they are never told about the Unification Church. They undergo a seminar in each chapter of the church, and then they are matched by the church to Korean men. if they like each other, they attend a mass wedding in Manila with hundreds of other couples. Korean men visit Manila for two to three days to attend the mass wedding, and they cover all the expenses for the wedding plus airfare of the Filipino women to come to Korea.
When the Filipino women arrive in Korea and start to live with their husbands, the women face many problems, like cultural differences, language barrier, and relationship with their mothers-in-law. Violence from their husbands is a particularly common and serious problem. Usually, their Korean husbands are not well educated, live in the countryside, and are generally farmers. Life in the countryside and work in the farm as well as the family life with the husband or mother-in-law seem to be a difficult experience for Filipina to accept.
Filipino women come to FCC with various problems and the most common case is violence from their husbands. There is no solution to this problem so far, and FCC is giving shelter and documenting evidences. FCC also asks for help from the Korean Catholic church regarding this problem.
from pages 125 and 144 of the book Filipino Diaspora: Demography, Social Networks, Empowerment and Culture – Edited by Mamoru Tsuda (2003)
Korean UC Reverend takes $10,000 from a farmer for finding him a Filipina wife.
The farmer was probably not a member of the Unification Church.
Extract from a dissertation on Marriage migration of Filipina women who marry Korean men.
by Minjeong Kim (2008)
Costs for Marriage
One of the critical issues that may have a long-lasting impact on the relationship between Filipinas and their Korean husbands and/or parents-in-laws is the misinterpretation of monetary costs for marriage. Wang (2007) argues that there is a different social logic behind the traditional arranged marriage and the commodified arranged marriage. In traditional arranged marriage, the groom’s and the bride’s families exchange gifts and dowry money, creating bilateral social relationships between two families; but, in commodified arranged marriage, only the groom’s family gives money to a mediating agency, part of which may go to the bride’s family upon the agency’s discretion. Thus, the market exchange between the agency and the groom’s family creates a unilateral transaction between the groom’s family and the bride’s family, resulting in the misconception that views the bride as commodity and legitimating the authority that Korean family members imagine they have over new brides.
Most Korean husbands and parents-in-law consider the payment as the general marriage cost they would have spent for marriage in any case, and in many Filipina-Korean marriages, this cost does not have a considerable impact on subsequent familial relationships. Blatant mistreatment or restriction from parents-in-laws may be exerted, like in Sheryl’s case when Korean families previously had a failed experience with Filipina wives.
For Byeong-woon’s family, that makes a living by rice farming, the 10 million won (US$ 10,000) that they saved for marriage with a Filipina was not a small amount. Before he left for the Philippines, he was picture-matched to a Filipina who the Uniﬁcation Church said was an elementary school teacher. He made an initial payment of $2,000 to the Church for the preparation of the wedding, but right before his departure, the UC reverend came to him and said that the woman changed her mind (although, there is no way of verifying this) and gave him back only $1,500 because $500 was already spent for miscellaneous costs. Since his trip was planned and he thought this time was his chance to marry, he went to the Philippines and was matched to Sheryl. For Byeong-woon’s aged parents who were in their late sixties, the first failure made the prevailing image of marriage migrants (who would marry to migrate to Korea and then leave for cities) a real possibility. They did not want to take a chance of Sheryl running away because that meant the US$ 6,000 they spent for the wedding going wasted and they would need to spend additional funds to find another wife. This compelled them to keep a tight hold on Filipinas physically and financially. Furthermore when Sheryl failed to produce a son, her conservative parents-in-laws’ frustration was exploded antagonistically toward Sheryl.
Doris was also subjected to her father-in-law’s restrictive vigilance. Her husband, Jeong-sam Lee, was unemployed and his family had a small-scale subsistence farm. Jeong-sam’s father was physically disabled and their income was mainly from the allowance Jeong-sam’s mother received from Jeong-sam’s older brother for taking care of her grandchildren in Seoul. Jeong-sam’s parents thought that the only way to marry their son, who was shy and not very appealing in his appearance, was to find a foreign wife. They assembled the funds from their savings and assistance from the eldest son to find a wife for their second son. However, the first Filipina wife left for the Philippines after living with Jeong-sam for only six months. It was a disappointment to Jeong-sam and his parents. But, they could not let Jeong-sam grow old by himself so they gave it another try. He went to the Philippines to have another matching and the second Filipina wife came to Korea. But she left for the Philippines even before joining him. Jeong-sam felt like giving up, but it was the Uniﬁcation Church that did not give up on him. After about a year, the UC reverend called Jeong-sam again and said that there was a Filipina in Suwon (a city near Seoul where the UC headquarter was). Jeong-sam thought he did not have anything to lose since the trip was only to Suwon. When they met, although Jeong-sam was not good-looking, his shyness appealed to Doris in some way, said she.
Jeong-sam, who found odd jobs occasionally, gave all his money to Doris. Mild-mannered and laid-back, Doris never openly complained to her husband about not working. When she found out that they could not have the baby that she had wanted so much due to her husband’s health problem, she accepted it as her “destiny.” Jeong-sam was very affectionate toward Doris and Doris, whose father left her soon after she was born, appreciated his devotion. Doris was creative and dexterous in handcrafts and decorated her home with many of her creations. However, Doris was still having a hard time with her parents-in-law. Like Pamela, she was often hurt by her mother-in-law’s rough manners and critical attitude toward her efforts. She confided that she felt relieved whenever her mother-in-law took off to Seoul. But the more serious issue was Doris’s father-in-law’s watchful eyes and aggressive attitude. He instructed that when Doris went out without Jeong-sam, she should not to be away for more than 2 hours. When she did so, he would call her and tell her to come home at once. When she had guests over, he rudely demanded to know why they were there. If she had male guests (e.g. computer technician to ﬁx her computer), he demanded that they leave quickly, which she said embarrassed her greatly. Fortunately, Doris’s reserved personality hindered her parents-in-laws’ abuse from impaling her relationship with Jeong-sam, but their mistreatment had a malevolent effect on her experiences in Korea.
The unilateral compensation for matchmaking is a deviation from traditional arranged marriage customs. At least in my sample, the costs of marriage did not have a substantial impact on Filipina-Korean family relations, except for the cases where the financial burden on the husbands’ families was significant due to previous unsuccessful marriage attempts. However, this one-sided payment system does leave an impression of an unequal relationship between Korean husbands and Filipina wives on the brides, grooms, their families and the general population in South Korea. Making only men pay for the matchmaking service is fundamentally grounded not only in masculinist gender roles, but also in the unequal economic standing of the two countries that the brides and grooms are from. That is, individual socio-economic status, which may be higher among the women than men, is not taken into consideration. Therefore, the compensation method reaffirms the unequal relation between brides and grooms and between the countries they are from.
It might be more expedient for Filipinas to learn Korean in this situation than for their Korean family members to learn Tagalog or English. However, not only are their efforts taken for granted, but also they curtail Filipinas’ cultural citizenship – the right to maintain languages and cultures diverging from the dominant ones (Glenn 2002; Rosaldo 1994). Teaching Filipinas’ children their mother’s language is seldom encouraged; so traces of women’s social and cultural identities rooted in the Philippines are only to be eliminated. Thus, their cultural citizenship is undermined. Moreover, their ethnicity and country of origin intersected with their gender and age becomes the basis to affirm their subordinate position, which [was discussed above].
… Three out of four Filipinas had more problems with their husbands (e.g. alcohol problems or bad temper) than with their in-laws…
Gendering Marriage Migration and Fragmented Citizenship Formation: “Korean” Wives, Daughters-in-law, and Mothers from the Philippines
By Minjeong Kim UMI Number: 3327489
This dissertation research examines the ways in which Filipina migrants who travel to marry South Korean farmers become part of the transnational migration stream, and explore how this movement reinforces and challenges gender relations in the local-global dimension. Based on the extensive qualitative data, this ethnographic project looks at the processes in which Filipinas and Korean men marry, followed by women’s migration, and women’s settlement processes with focus on their interpersonal dynamics within families, social activities in co-ethnic and inter-ethnic communities, and institutional experiences, especially regarding to their citizenship formation. By incorporating previous marriage migration theories based on the global political economy with feminist theories on patriarchal ideologies and systems, reproductive labor, and citizenship, this study contributes to explaining how gender roles play a significant role in Filipinas’ and Korean men’s decisions to be engaged in cross-border marriages and how Filipinas’ reproductive labor is important in accounting for their membership in their new families, communities and the state. Furthermore, it argues that Filipinas’ status as mothers is critical in their formation of Korean citizenship, which, however, is fragmented due to their class and racial status as well as the global standing of their country of origin in international hierarchies.
Many non-UC Korean men and Filipinas are recruited or urged by local UC members and matched through UC ceremonies
“… the number of foreign woman-Korean man marriage has steadily increased since the early 1990s, initially due to the issue of “farm bachelors.”
Since the 1970s, the South Korean government promoted export-oriented industrialization and urbanization and this overrode the possibility of systematic agricultural development, leaving rural areas without good economic prospects. While strong rural patriarchal characteristics and growing employment opportunities in urban manufacturing industries drove young women out of rural areas, patrilineal and patrilocal traditions meant that a farmer’s son would stay in his hometown and look for a wife who would live with his family. As a result, farmers became the last candidate any Korean women would choose to marry. Male farmers’ difficulties in finding wives became a national issue in the 1980s with reports of farmers committing suicide out of the frustration of not providing offspring, which is an important duty of filial piety. But of course, these media reports did not mention how many farmers are from low-income households due to government’s de-emphasis of agricultural industry. …
Farm bachelors marrying international marriage migrants have also been an issue in Japan and Taiwan before this occurred in South Korea, and now with the rigorous promotion by numerous introduction/wedding agencies, the absolute number of urban clienteles surpassed their rural counterparts in these countries. In rural areas, the Unification Church has played a crucial role in promoting international marriage. Though many Korean men and Filipinas are not the Unification Church members, they are recruited or urged by local UC members and matched through the UC ceremonies.
For my study, I entered rural communities because the inflow of marriage migrants has steadily increased in rural areas and to examine a different impact of globalization in rural areas which have often been excluded from the globalization literature.”
Marriage Immigrants and “Multiculturalism” in Rural South Korea
Publisher: University of Hawai’i Press
Copyright year: 2018
Audience: Professional and scholarly;
Pages: Main content: 224
Published: April 30, 2018
About this book
Elusive Belonging examines the post-migration experiences of Filipina marriage immigrants in rural South Korea. Marriage migration—crossing national borders for marriage—has attracted significant public and scholarly attention, especially in new destination countries, which grapple with how to integrate marriage migrants and their children and what that integration means for citizenship boundaries and a once-homogenous national identity. In the early twenty-first century many Filipina marriage immigrants arrived in South Korea under the auspices of the Unification Church, which has long served as an institutional matchmaker.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork, Elusive Belonging examines Filipinas who married rural South Korean bachelors in the first decade of the twenty-first century. Turning away from the common stereotype of Filipinas as victims of domestic violence at the mercy of husbands and in-laws, Minjeong Kim provides a nuanced understanding of both the conflicts and emotional attachments of their relationships with marital families and communities. Her close-up accounts of the day-to-day operations of the state’s multicultural policies and public programs show intimate relationships between Filipinas, South Korean husbands, in-laws, and multicultural agents, and how various emotions of love, care, anxiety, and gratitude affect immigrant women’s fragmented citizenship and elusive sense of belonging to their new country. By offering the perspectives of varied actors, the book reveals how women’s experiences of tension and marginalization are not generated within the family alone; they also reflect the socioeconomic conditions of rural Korea and the state’s unbalanced approach to “multiculturalism.”
Against a backdrop of the South Korean government’s multicultural policies and projects aimed at integrating marriage immigrants, Elusive Belonging attends to the emotional aspects of citizenship rooted in a sense of belonging. It mediates between a critique of the assimilation inherent in Korea’s “multiculturalism” and the contention that the country’s core identity is shifting from ethnic homogeneity to multiethnic diversity. In the process it shows how marriage immigrants are incorporated into the fabric of Korean society even as they construct new identities as Filipinas in South Korea.
Minjeong Kim is associate professor in the Department of Sociology at San Diego State University.
UNESCO Report: Korean-Filipino marriages under the UC sparked controversy and animosity
Exploring Transnational Communities in the Philippines
Philippine Migration Research Network (PMRN) and Philippine Social Science Council (PSSC) 2007 report
edited by Virginia A. Miralao and Lorna P. Makil
… It should be noted that similar occasions for personal contacts between the two nationalities in much earlier periods came with the transfer of Korean wives to the Philippines in the 1960s to join their Filipino husbands who had fought in the Korean war; and the mass Han-Filipino weddings sponsored by Korea’s Unification Church in the late 1980s through the mid 1990s. But these involved far more limited numbers when compared to the inter-people contacts being generated by today’s Korean migration to the Philippines. Among Filipinos moreover, the Han-Filipino marriages under the Unification Church sparked more controversy and animosity than harmony in Philippine-Korean relations.
Although the Philippines and Korea have been long-time allies in the Cold War and share the same commitment to democratic values and to market-oriented economies and have other parallels in their national histories, some references have been made to underlying differences in the culture, psychology and temperament of Filipinos and Koreans. In his remarks at the 1998 Conference on Philippines-South Korea Relations, Suh Yong-Hyung, Minister Counselor of South Korea’s Embassy in Manila, makes mention of how Korea’s colonial and war-time experiences may have developed traits of “militant aggressiveness, regimental rigidity and hastiness” among Koreans, whereas Filipinos seem to exhibit more “friendliness, flexibility and open-mindedness.” Hence, even as the new Korean migration will increase interpersonal contacts with Filipinos (i.e., with Filipino tutors, teachers, class/schoolmates, landlords, business associates, etc.), this is not entirely without the potential for conflict. But given the increasing value placed on pluralism or multiculturalism in today’s globalizing societies, Koreans and Filipinos alike may find it more comfortable to be just themselves, appreciate their differences and co-exist.
United Nations report: Perspectives on Gender and Migration (2007)
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMISSION FOR ASIA AND THE PACIFIC
This is an important United Nations document – very relevant to UC members. Suggested reading for members before marrying an oriental spouse.
“Forced marriages can also come in the form of group weddings through the Unification Church’s “matching” practice, as well as through commercial agencies. In these cases, the woman is not given enough time to decide if there is mutual sympathy and understanding between her and her partner.”
from pages 84-90
II. THE PLIGHT OF FEMALE INTERNATIONAL MARRIAGE MIGRANTS
A. Commercialization of international marriage
In general, women migrating through international marriages are known to face various difficulties. This also applies to female migrants in the Republic of Korea. Furthermore, they may face further complications owing to the unique situation of the Republic of Korea.
Today, international marriages are achieved in various forms and it is not easy to generalize the discourse. However, one of the most serious problems is the commercialization of marriages by certain international marriage agencies and religious groups. These marriage arrangements are selected mostly by economically marginalized Korean males who are unable to secure Korean female spouses and, therefore, choose international marriage as a solution. The foreign females entering into such marriages are usually from countries less developed than the Republic of Korea, and this imbalance in economic standards between the countries many times leads to the exploitation of these female migrants because of unequal gender structures, discrimination and the violation of their human rights
(see figure 3). Link to report
Furthermore, the marriage agencies frequently provide advertisements directed toward female candidates that have some implications of human trafficking, such as “she will never run away” and “deferred payment system”. Also, many agencies deceive the male spouse by describing the female marriage candidates as “loyal to the family and obedient to the husband”, when in fact the female candidates are independent and wish to work rather than stay only in the domestic sphere after marriage. At the same time, to convince the female candidates to marry, the agencies provide false information on the financial status of the male spouse and create fantasies of a bountiful life to hasten the marriage process.
The females seeking to migrate to the Republic of Korea are exposed to the dangers of receiving false information regarding their future spouses, illegal activities, trafficking and other human rights violations imposed by the international marriage agencies. Moreover, even if they safely marry and immigrate, they still face such difficulties as not being acknowledged as citizens and being prevented from receiving welfare benefits. Their limited communication abilities and limited access to information make the situation worse. The risk of facing poverty, as well as distrust and abuse from their Korean spouses and families alike, further complicate their lives. In addition, the female migrants may be exposed to racial prejudices mainly because they are from “underdeveloped countries”.
B. False information regarding the husband candidates and the rapid marriage process
The most frequently noted problem by female international marriage migrants is the fact that in many cases they did not receive accurate information about their spouses. In a survey, 1 out of every 4 or 5 female migrants replied that the information she received regarding the spouse before coming to the Republic of Korea was false. In a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, 37 per cent of female international marriage migrants reported that they had received false information concerning their spouse’s personality, including his mental health; 28 per cent had received false information about his income; 21 per cent about his property and 20 per cent about his job (Seol and others 2006).
Among international marriages, there are cases in which the female spouse is unaware of the male spouse’s mental health problems before making the final decision to marry, and after she learns the reality and attempts to cancel the marriage, the agency demands a large penalty for breaching the contract, so, as a result, she is forced to go ahead with the marriage. Forced marriages can also come in the form of group weddings through the Unification Church’s “matching” practice, as well as through commercial agencies. In these cases, the woman is not given enough time to decide if there is mutual sympathy and understanding between her and her partner.
C. Family abuse
D. Insecure nationality
E. Economic difficulties and unemployment
F. Racial prejudice and the social isolation of female migrants
G. Cultural maladjustment and one-sided demand for cultural assimilation
Lenny was trafficked into prostitution in Korea through the Unification Church “Blessing”
The following excerpts are from an account in Halfway Through the Circle: The Lives of 8 Filipino Survivors of Prostitution & Sex Trafficking, edited by Flor Caagusan
Lenny is 38 years old, slight of build, kayumanggi [brown complexion], attractive and charming. She is articulate and very pleasant to talk with. She is probably a typical Filipino woman in many ways. But she has experiences that are not at all typical. She wants these experiences to be known, for other women to draw lessons from them, and so she tells her story.
Lenny was born in Same Tomas, a big agricultural town in Pangasinan, on January 22, 1960, to a large family. She grew up in Pangasinan with seven brothers and sisters. She has a twin sister. Two of her siblings died; one in infancy, and the other when he was in second year high school.
Her childhood was normal in every way. She describes her family as middle class; they were not rich but they were not poor either. Life was comfortable. They owned the house they lived in near the city. Her parents also owned some tenanted agricultural land from which they derived much of their income. Her mother was a schoolteacher and her father, a barangay captain [barangay = smallest political unit covering several rural villages or urban communities]. Both parents put a premium on education. To them, it is a priceless gift that parents can give their children. And so, they were all sent to school; in fact, the youngest sibling will be graduating from college this school year.
Lenny herself finished high school. She can speak Filipino, Ilocano and English fluently. She took a two-year secretarial course which she finished in 1983.
Marriage and Hard Times
Soon after her studies, Lenny took a vacation at her sister’s place. There she met Oscar, a good-looking and charming man three years her senior, who had finished two years of college. They married right away, then had to live with her parents-in-law because they couldn’t afford to have their own house yet.
The family started to grow. Five children —three boys and two girls— were born to Lenny and Oscar almost every other year until 1992. With the growing number of children also came greater pressure for the couple to earn a good living. This proved to be difficult, as Oscar could only get odd jobs in their town. He worked as a farmer, a welder, a driver—he worked at that could give him some money to support his growing family. But his income was never enough. He depended a lot on his mother to give him financial support, and Lenny thought that he didn’t try hard enough because he had his mother to run to whenever he needed money. They also alternately resided in Pangasinan and Zambales to try their luck at better-paying jobs. This move didn’t change their economic state. Money was their greatest problem. The occasional quarrels they had were always about this.
Lenny had no choice but to find work herself. She worked as a seamstress in a garment factory right after giving birth to her first child. For almost a year, she also engaged in a buy-and-sell business, selling beauty products, garments, house wares and other products. She couldn’t hold on to a job for long. Her every-other-year pregnancies and their frequent moves from one province to the other were not helpful at all in their attempt to secure a better life for their family. She and Oscar resorted to borrowing money from all possible sources: family, relatives, friends, neighbors. They relied on loans when their irregular income was not enough to meet their basic needs. Still there was never enough.
Lenny began to entertain ideas about working abroad to earn more money. Of all her brothers and sisters, she was the only one who was having a difficult time. Her twin sister applied for a job in England a few years back, got married, and now lives there with her family. An older brother migrated to Australia with his family and is doing well. Except for one brother, who is still a student, her other siblings all live in Pangasinan with their families and are quite comfortable. She occasionally gets financial help from her siblings who live abroad. Her parents also help her out from time to time. They have repeatedly asked her to stay with them in Santa Tomas since she’s finding life so difficult. She refuses because she wants to make it on her own, like her other brothers and sisters. She knows she can do it, too, with her diligence, capability and independent spirit. She does not fear hard work. She keeps telling herself her fortune will turn for the better. It’s simply a matter of time.
In 1993, her husband Oscar was able to go to Saudi Arabia as a contract worker. He got a construction job and sent home three to four thousand pesos every month. Oscar worked abroad for more than two years but did not have any savings when he came home.
Oscar was still working in Saudi Arabia in 1995. Meanwhile, Lenny got a job as an encoder in a small computer outfit in Manila where a cousin was working. Her monthly salary was about the same as Oscar’s’ monthly remittance from Saudi Arabia but their combined salary still was not enough for their family needs.
So, when an international movement that promised foreign employment began an extensive recruitment campaign in the country, it found in Lenny a most receptive and enthusiastic recruit.
In the Philippines, the Unification Movement has organized local chapters of most of the international organizations established by Rev. Moon. These chapters are estimated to have about 500,000 members throughout the country. Their recruitment program is quite extensive. They conduct group lectures and seminars in schools and in church centers located in almost all cities in the country. Members introduce themselves personally in work places or in the homes of the prospective members to convince them to join the movement. Recruits go through a program of lectures, prayers and sports, and are urged to put their faith in Moon and his teachings. They are also urged to leave their families, schools or jobs in order to live in communes and to work in Church enterprises.
Lenny Gains Acceptance
The recruiters, two men and a woman, became Lenny’s frequent visitors at her cousin’s place. They showed her employment brochures, pictures of places where members could work, and photographs of Filipino VIPs— some high-ranking government officials, retired military officers, prominent society people—who are members of the local chapters. All this to prove their legitimacy.
But the most enticing offer of membership for Lenny was the promise of overseas employment the very real chance of getting a good job abroad. There was no mention of what this good job was. Repeatedly they only talked about the opportunity to earn in just one day the amount of money that she would earn in a month’s work in Manila!
Lenny was convinced. She joined the Unification Movement in May 1995, over her cousin’s objections. The promise of big money in overseas work proved hard to resist. This was her chance to provide for her children’s future.
Lenny was brought to the center in Quezon City where she accomplished a membership form. She declared that she was single and had no children. She also had her picture taken. She attended a seminar on the objectives of the movement. This was all it took to make her an official member of the Unification Church. She became a full-time missionary. Along with other new members, she lived in the national headquarters of the Unification Church in Samar Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City.
The Church has eight centers in Metro Manila and 19 centers in different cities throughout the Philippines. The place doesn’t look like a church; it’s more like an office and is used as such by members. They do not call each other by name. A recruit is ‘called kapatid (brother/sister), the church leaders are called magulang (parents). To gain trust and confidence, she did everything that she was asked to do.
Her first task was to raise funds for the movement. Funds were needed to recruit more members, maintain their office/residence, buy food and sustain the activities of the Moonies. Lenny was asked to sell candles, candies, peanuts, ball pens, key chains and odds-and-ends. The instruction was: if people do not wish to buy from her, she should instead ask for voluntary contributions—any amount would do—for the mission. Missionaries were allowed to use “heavenly deceit”; they would tell people that the money would be used for orphans, for drug rehabilitation, and for other worthwhile causes. They collected a lot of money in their fundraising drive. She knew some members who turned in collections worth five to ten thousand pesos daily. All proceeds of the fundraising went to the Unification Church and, ultimately, to Rev. Moon. They were simply given a limited allowance for personal needs. Their food, clothes and housing were all provided for at the center.
Food raising was another major activity. Lenny, together with the other members, regularly visited public markets and food stalls where they solicited contributions, in cash or in kind, from market vendors who were actually as poor as they were, if not poorer.
As important as raising money for the movement was the continuing recruitment of new members. Recruitment efforts were intensified in schools and in the provinces. Lenny went far and wide to recruit members—to remote barangays in some provinces, to cities as well as the countryside. As in their other activities, the members were given specific instructions on what to do or say in approaching potential recruits. They recruited only women, which made her wonder what the Moonies were really up to. They were told to invite young women in poverty, or those who had low-paying jobs. They had to say good things about the movement to attract the women. The selling point was always the opportunity to have a job where a woman could earn in one day what she normally earned in a month. This proved to be irresistible to many women. Many of them joined.
Lenny had many doubts. But she herself was convinced that the organization would be able to provide its members work opportunities abroad. Like the other women, she believed that a high-paying job was there for the taking once she got there. She needed that job for her children. So she cast her doubts aside. She did everything that they asked her to do. She followed their instructions and teachings faithfully, worked hard at fundraising, food raising and recruiting. She wanted to earn their trust and prove that she was one of them.
Lenny’s family was very much against her joining the Unification Movement. Her parents, brothers and sisters were angry with her. They warned her, in no uncertain terms, that nothing good would come out of her joining the movement. They thought of it as just a racket. The warnings went unheeded.
Four months went by. Lenny was all set to go abroad. She had been matched with a Korean man for marriage in South Korea. It was now clear to Lenny that the promise of working abroad would be realized only through marriage to a Korean national. The movement preached that women should be matched with men to start the Ideal Family. The Rev. Moon was the primary matchmaker.
He was given divine powers to know a person well by looking at his or her picture. He always knows the truth, they said, and he can tell if one is lying. Just by looking at photographs, Rev. Moon knows right away whether a couple will be a good match.
There were some women who couldn’t be matched or who were rejected by Korean men. Women were not allowed to choose their would-be partners. Only the men could reject the women for any or no reason at all. In such cases, the leaders would preach to the rejected women about how to be worthy of marriage, the duties and responsibilities of women, and so forth. Then matching would be tried again until some man accepted the woman for marriage. When Lenny was matched, a photograph of the man she would marry was sent to her. His name was Jong Soo Ryu, a Korean farmer about her age. She had no reaction. It was just work, nothing more.
The women prepared to leave for South Korea. Lenny paid P1,500 for her passport and P600 for her visa. She found out later that the Moonies were making money from both ends, since the Korean was also asked to pay for the travel papers of his soon-to-be “bride.” Each “groom” paid a total amount of US$2,000 to cover the expenses for transportation, meals and presents for his bride, as well as the cost of a ready-made wedding gown.
Biggest Mass Wedding
One-hundred-four women, including Lenny, departed for South Korea on August 22, 1995. They were ordinary-looking Filipinas in search of greener pastures. Their ages ranged from 16 to 52 years. Some were professional workers: teachers, accountants, supervisors, office workers. Others were students, sales clerks, domestic helpers, vendors, and plain jobless women. A few of the women had disabilities—one was blind in one eye, one or two were crippled, another was cross-eyed; another, hare-lipped. Their genuine Philippine passports were stamped with genuine Korean tourist visas which were valid for 90 days. Just before departure, each woman was given P500 for the airport terminal fee and US$100 as pocket money, to be used mainly in buying gifts for her “husband-to-be” and his relatives. They were told that this was a Korean tradition a woman had to observe.
They went through immigration without any hitch. An agency with contacts at both airports facilitated their departure from Manila and arrival in Seoul, where they were required to take an AIDS test. Lenny thought of the entire procedure as just routine.
The women were in South Korea for only five days. They stayed secluded in a hotel in the city. On the third day, August 25, a mass wedding was held at the Olympic Stadium in Seoul. This was probably the biggest international mass wedding ever held, with some 360,000 couples participating in Seoul and, by extension, in 130 other countries around the world through satellite. The wedding ceremony was officiated by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in Korea and by his representatives in other countries. (A similar mass wedding was to be held five months later, on January 23, 1996, at the PICC Complex in Manila where some 983 Filipino women were married to foreign nationals, mostly Koreans.) The brides were of different nationalities: Asians like Thais, Japanese, Filipinos and Singaporeans; Africans, Southern Europeans, and many others; the grooms were Koreans, most of them crudely uneducated males, in their 20s and 30s, from farms and fishing communities.
The wedding ceremony had all the features and characteristics of a church wedding in the Philippines. It included rituals like exchange of wedding rings and “I do’s” between the brides who wore white wedding gowns and the grooms in coat and tie. But no marriage contracts were signed, no marriage licenses issued to the participants. They were simply made to accept their partners and to take each other as eternal husband and wife, in the tradition of the Unification Movement. They recited vows, exchanged rings and offered prayers. The vows emphasized the couple’s readiness to serve God’s will, their commitment to true love, fidelity and permanency in marriage, and their pledge to serve the cause of world peace.
After the wedding, the women were taken back to their hotels where they remained until their departure for their own countries. But there were other rituals before the marriage was deemed completed. Lenny especially remembers the Tang Gam Stick or “Restoration Ceremony” because it was physically painful. The purpose of the ritual was to free the marriage of all past resentment or ill-feeling between the new husband and wife. The man hits the woman three times with a softball bat. The woman, in turn, hits the man three times with the same bat. Inflicting pain on each other supposedly marks the end of all their quarrels, and they can thus begin their marriage freely and with good feeling towards each other. The rite was witnessed by their church leaders, who hit both the men and women when they thought the couples were not hitting each other hard enough.
A period of separation followed. This lasted for at least 40 days from the wedding ceremony. The newlyweds abstained from sexual contact and were supposed to spend this time separately, in prayer and reflection, so that they would be prepared for the start of married life.
Lenny was back in Manila after five days. Before she left Seoul, Jong Soo Ryu gave her a watch, a necklace, a ring and one million won in cash (Korean currency equivalent to approximately P5,000 in 1995) as bridal gifts. This, again, is a Korean tradition. The church leader took the gifts from her when they searched her bags upon arrival at the Center from the airport. These would go towards paying off all expenses that were incurred by the movement for her recent marriage.
The two-month separation period was used for fund raising and recruitment activities. The leaders said the Unification Church needed money badly as it had spent a lot of money for the mass wedding. Lenny was able to get away for a time to visit her children whom she had not seen for a few months. Three children were left with her family in Pangasinan, one child was in the care of her parents-in-law in Zambales, and the youngest stayed with a relative in Baguio City. She visited them all. Her family was very angry with her when they learned that she went to South Korea to get married, even as she explained that it wasn’t a real marriage. Her family felt shame and humiliation that she, a Catholic and a married woman, had to go to another country to marry again for money! Lenny wrote her husband Oscar in Saudi Arabia to explain: her plan was to go back to South Korea, tell her Korean husband that she had a husband and children in the Philippines, and he’d probably leave her alone. Then she’d be able to find a job and send money to her family in the Philippines.
Two months later, on October 25, 1995, Lenny, together with the group of women she was with before, was once again on her way to South Korea to start the Ideal Family with her Korean husband. She was given P500 for the terminal fee, her passport and a plane ticket. They were told not to bring many things; everything they’d need would be provided by their husbands. Upon arrival, the group was taken to a training center where they attended a three-day seminar—their introduction to Korean life and their duties and responsibilities to their husbands. The program included a basic course on the Korean language and introduction to culture studies. Studies of divine principles embodied in Rev. Moon’s teachings were also taken up. Then they were asked to leave behind memories of their past life and forget their families and country, for they were now in the “True Fatherland” (Korea) with their “True Parents” (Mr. & Mrs. Sun Myung Moon). Their passports and tickets were taken from them purportedly for safekeeping. After the seminar, the husbands fetched their wives and brought them to their respective churches. Lenny was the only Filipino in the church she was brought to.
The Korean brought Lenny to his house in a farm near the mountains. Lenny began her new life.
Suffer By Heavenly Will
From the start, Lenny found herself in an impossible situation. She felt completely isolated in that farm, the nearest neighbor being miles away. And it was far from Seoul, the capital city. The household consisted of the Korean and his aging mother, neither of whom spoke English. Lenny couldn’t speak their language either. They communicated by signs when needed, which was seldom. Lenny had an English-Korean dictionary, which helped a bit when she asked questions. They had very little conversation. Whenever the Korean talked to her, he spoke in a loud voice and an angry tone. She suspected he was hurling invectives and insults at her.
They lived in a very uncomfortable house that did not have any water heater, refrigerator, washing machine and other basic household appliances. On top of it all, no toilet! Lenny was treated like a housemaid in this primitive house. She did the laundry using ice-cold water and she had to cook with firewood. She was made to plant, help in harvesting crops, take care of the livestock, and take care of the grouchy old woman! The clothes she brought from Manila turned out to be inadequate for the extremely cold weather. Their daily fare consisted of rice and pechay [Chinese cabbage, green leafy vegetable] with watery kimchi [spicy Korean vegetable mixture]. She was even made to work in the households of the Korean’s relatives, without pay.
Lenny fought hard against the Korean the first time he forced sex on her. But she was no match against his physical strength. He made her do sexual acts that revolted her. Whenever she resisted or refused, he would hit her and hurt her until she complied. Even worse, he brought her to different men for their sexual pleasure. How many times, she can no longer recall. The Korean received money after every sexual service, a business transaction for him. She did not see how much money he got but she suspects he made a lot. She was not only a work slave, she was also a sex slave! She told her church leaders everything that had happened to her when they came around to visit. But they brushed her off with a sermon on the virtues of sacrifice, with the admonition that it is a woman’s duty to obey her husband and not complain. They told her that suffering is the will of the “Heavenly Father,” Rev. Moon.
Lenny made plans to escape. Her Korean “husband” had threatened her before—she would be arrested by the police if she ever attempted to escape. There was no reason to doubt that he could make good his threat. She knew, too, that the Moonies were powerful and well-connected. But she just had to flee from hell.
The opportunity came on December 14. At about five o’clock in the morning of that winter day, she left the house, taking nothing except the clothes she had on and a thin jacket. She must have walked for about 45 minutes. It was still dark when she reached a train station that was almost deserted at that hour. She would circle the place every time she saw somebody approach the station, aware that the Moonies were all over, even in the remotest places. She managed to call the Philippine Embassy in Seoul which quickly arranged for a nearby Methodist Church leader to pick her up at the station and take her to the embassy immediately.
Still, Lenny wasn’t safe. The Moonies now knew about her escape and correctly assumed that she had informed the embassy of her experience. They demanded that the embassy turn her over to them, saying she was a bona fide member of their church. But Lenny had gone into hiding, moving from one residence to another in different locations in Seoul. These were the houses of some Filipino residents and Filipino migrant workers who helped her escape. The Moonies probably meant to silence her from exposing the illegal and anomalous acts of the Unification Church. Death threats followed Lenny.
On February 19, 1996, a composite team of agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the Bureau of Immigration (BoI) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) arrived in Seoul to look into the activities of the movement. This investigation was made a month after the mass wedding of 983 Filipino women to foreign nationals at the PICC in Manila on January 23, 1996. By this time, Lenny had made a sworn statement about everything that happened from the time she joined the Moonies in Manila to her escape from her Korean husband two months before. This statement was used by the Philippine government to build up a legal case in Manila against the Unification Church.
The investigation team also interviewed six other Filipino “brides” in Korea and their sworn statements formed part of the evidence against the Moonies. The six women had been participants in the mass wedding of August 25, 1995, and they were staying at the different Unification churches in Korea, rendering voluntary service—cleaning, washing, cooking and doing all other household chores. All of them entered Korea on tourist visa (C-3) for 90 days. Upon expiration, the visas were changed to trainee visa (D-4) and they were issued Certificates of Alien Registration by the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Korea. The change in status from tourist to trainee was done by the Unification Church without the women having to exit from Korea as normally required.
The investigating team also attempted an ocular inspection of the churches where some of the Filipino brides were staying and to interview the women. Church officials refused their request. The agents, however, were able to take pictures of the church, the house and the farm where Lenny was taken and made to work. The pictures, as well as Lenny’s sworn statement, the statements of the six other Filipino brides, and the interviews with officials of the movement and other Filipino residents in Korea, constituted the body of evidence that were to be used for the prosecution of the officers of the Unification Movement for violation of at least five Philippine laws. Notable among these laws is R.A. 6955 or the mail-order bride law, which declares unlawful the practice of matching Filipino women to foreign nationals for marriage.
Lenny was heartened by the many actions taken by the government agencies and some private groups to help her and the other Filipino brides in Korea. A case was to be filed by the government against the Unification Movement, with Lenny as the principal witness. The prosecution of the Moonies was the main recommendation of the investigating team. It was also recommended that the Moonies be banned from the Philippines for deliberately violating the laws of the country and for deceiving and exploiting Filipino women.
The Philippine Embassy in Korea did everything necessary to bring Lenny safely back to Manila. She was given an alias, a new passport in that name and a plane ticket. On February 22, 1996, she took a flight from Seoul to Manila. All told, her Korean sojourn, from the time she left in August 1995 to get married, to the time she returned to the Philippines, took all of six months. It felt like six years and more. But the important thing was, she made it back home .
DOJ Dismisses Case
Lenny reunited with her husband Oscar and their five children. They lived in a small rented house in an urban poor community in Quezon City where Oscar was able to get a construction job. Lenny and her parents, brothers and sisters in Pangasinan are now in good terms. They have gotten over their resentment against her and her marriage abroad. It is mainly their financial support that sees her own family through.
For a short while, Lenny’s family tried to settle down to a quiet normal life: the children were in school; Oscar had his job, and Lenny took care of the family. At the same time, she actively pursued the case against the Moonies. She followed up the case with the NBI, BoI, POEA and Department of Justice. She attended meetings with government lawyers, making statements and turning over documents that she could find, to strengthen the case. Her goal was clear: Fight the Moonies and stop them!
Lenny was so engrossed with the case that she failed to notice the changes that were slowly taking place in her family. From the start, she had been honest with them about her experience in Korea. Her children, young as they were, accepted this episode affecting their family as a fact of life. The youngest would occasionally ask, “Hindi ba masamang lugar ang Korea?” (Isn’t Korea a bad place?)
Her children coped better than she and Oscar did. She couldn’t explain her reaction to him. She didn’t welcome his sexual intimacies when they were reunited. She found them repulsive. And she was revolted by his touch. They grew apart. He thought they could lead a new life and start again if she would just drop the case. It was taking up so much of her time and energy. He felt sure that nothing would come out of it, that it was just a waste of time. So he asked her to stop pursuing her case; she didn’t agree with him. The marriage crumbled.
One day, Oscar walked out of their house, leaving his family. He never came back. Lenny doesn’t know where he is. She thinks he is probably working abroad again. As far as she is concerned, her marriage to Oscar is now a closed chapter of her life; she can do without him, and she and her children will survive.
The case was taking a long time but, for her, its resolution would be worth all the hard work, time and energy she had put into it, as well as the troubles in her life that it had caused. When it’s over, she plans to get a job. With her qualifications, she thinks she can get a good job, although it may not be that easy. Asked if she would consider overseas employment again, her emphatic response is, “No way!” She likes to think she has learned her lesson. She still feels like crying every time she remembers her ordeal. “My life has been like what you see in the movies,” she sadly states.
In March 1998, the case that Lenny had worked on for so long, and that she thought could never lose, was dismissed by the Department of Justice. She couldn’t believe it! It was a big blow. How could it be dismissed? She was flatly told: Lack of evidence. But what about her own experience, her sworn statement? What about the abuses committed against her? What of her pain and suffering? The testimony of the people who helped her? She just could not understand why the case was dismissed. There was no end to her questions. Sadly, there were no answers.
Lenny will appeal the decision to dismiss the case against the Unification Church. A non-government organization providing free legal assistance to abused women has taken up her case. She has been advised about her options, and some steps may be taken to reverse the decision. Lenny and her lawyer are working on it. She doesn’t know how long it will take or whether it will end differently this time. All she knows is, she has to keep trying.
With the dismissal of the case, it was as if a restructuring of her whole life took place. She is now living temporarily in a center for displaced women, while the NGO that is providing her legal service is working at reopening the case. Her children have been sent back to the home of her parents in the province, as before. She can’t afford to keep them together, for now. When her parents learned about the dismissal of the case, they were disappointed, but they also felt relieved. They thought it would mean that their much-troubled daughter could forget the past, settle down and get on with her life —but Lenny has other plans.
She is going to pursue the case. With her decision, she has antagonized her family once again. They can’t understand why Lenny wouldn’t drop the case when she has already lost it. But Lenny thinks the case is more important than her family and other people realize. Meanwhile, she stays at the women’s center where she’s busy with some in-house training activities, house chores and counseling sessions. She’s also making immediate plans for herself and her children.
Her goals and ambition remain the same. She joined the Unification Movement thinking she could give her children a better life. That turned out to be a mistake, but now it’s time to move on. Lenny believes it is never too late to dream one’s dreams and work to realize them. It is just a matter of time.
A 20-year-old woman, recruited by the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification / UC in Japan, was sold to an older Korean farmer in an “apology marriage”.
Mujer de 20 años reclutada en Japón por la Federación de la Familia para la Paz Mundial y la Unificación / IU y luego fue vendida a un granjero coreano en un “matrimonio de disculpa”.