Original article in Korean is at this link.
24-year old Ms. A, who is from Vietnam, used a marriage broker in 2005 to marry 41-year old Korean Mr. Kim. The couple often fought but had a daughter four months later in 2006. Ms. A heard from a friend that “there is a place where you can file for divorce and change your citizenship” and went to the lawyer’s office in Mokdong in Seoul. Through the lawyer’s 48-year old Vietnamese assistant, Ms. A met 51-year old Ms. Jeong, a loanshark. Ms. Jeong gave the now-divorced Ms. A a 30 million won loan at 365% (1% per day) interest. Similar to other marriage immigrants who divorce their Korean husbands and then wish to take Korean citizenship, this was to help her in her daily life. Her bank statement now read 30 million won. The interest was 600,000 won after just two days. Without a real job, this was a large sum for Ms. A.
Throughout neighborhoods in Seoul where foreigners concentrate, there are businesses taking advantage of the requirement of having 30 million won in one’s bank account in order to take Korean citizenship. Law firms and travel agencies are playing the role of loanshark, our investigation found.
The investigators contacted them by pretending to be Chinese women who wanted to divorce their Korean husbands. At travel agency H in Daelim-dong, where many foreigners live, they were told that “if you put down a deposit of just 300,000 won then we can offer a package of the divorce procedure plus Korean citizenship and amending your Chinese family register… you don’t have to worry about anything, you can talk directly with the lawyer.” 32-year old Ms. So, who is Chinese, said that “if you look in the advertisements in the Chinese newspaper, there are sometimes travel agencies offering divorce packages… these days lots of law firms in this area have Chinese employees.” The travel agencies are illegally offering divorce and citizenship services.
The greater problem is that many of the law firms and travel agencies tell the women that they need the bank statement and introduce them to loansharks. Most of the women are full-time homemakers and have little money, so in order to change citizenship they must undergo the new horror of massive debt.
The first criminal division of the Southern Seoul Prosecutor’s Office recently indicted Ms. Jeong for loansharking. Ms. Jeong had charged 300,000 won interest per day. Prosecutors found that 44 immigrant women had received loans from her and then obtained citizenship. However, with no regulations on this there is no legal method to reverse their naturalization.
Chief prosecutor Kim Hun said that “when immigrant women take our citizenship, generally they use untrustworthy places that misuse taxpayer money… in America, France, and other countries they have systems to fully investigate a citizenship applicant’s ability to support herself, and we urgently need that as well.”