Talking to my Korean friends about this, they say that marrying a foreigner is a ticket to a better life. There's a stereotype that American men have a lot of money, even military men, so it's a way to provide for your family and possibly relocate everyone to the USA or Canada.
There have been a couple recent encounters with these pairings that have left me feeling uncomfortable.
I was in Itaewon recently, sitting outside at a coffee shop to enjoy my book and iced coffee in the sunshine. Five US military men were standing on the sidewalk talking and laughing together. At first I couldn't hear their conversation but then one said loudly, "I can introduce you to some Filipino girls if you want."
It's common knowledge that a lot of Filipino women -- who call themselves "juicy girls" -- hang out in front of the US bases and try to score dates with the soldiers. They're not prostitutes per se because they are hoping for marriage, but many of them will do whatever is necessary to get a man's attention.
There are even "juicy bars" where men can go and secure a date for the night for around 100,000 won. It's a big business. And one the US military is trying to crack down on, forbidding soldiers from visiting bars and clubs known to encourage prostitution.
Later that day, still in Itaewon, I heard an American man talking loudly behind me. I couldn't see him but his booming voice guaranteed I overheard his entire conversation, which was about money. He made $55,000 in 2008 and none of it was taxable. He also had $4500 in income from a US job and with the exchange rate.....
The guy kept going on and on about his finances and I wondered who he was talking to since I never heard anyone reply. Was he on his cell phone talking with his accountant?
Finally I got up to leave and saw the man sitting directly behind me, and at the same table as a young Filipino girl. He was still rambling on about his job and she just sat there, not smiling or saying anything, but staring straight ahead. He seemed completely oblivious to her obvious disinterest.
What motivates these women? Maybe I'd feel differently if I could identify with their situations -- immigrants, living in poor conditions, eager to provide for their families. But I see these couples almost daily and it just makes me sad to think that they might get money but will probably never find happiness.