As an exchange student, Koreans would admire you for the courage that you possess to study the history and culture of Korea and they would praise you even more for being able to speak Korean (Korean language is considered as one of the most difficult languages to learn...the older Korean generation would say that only SMART foreigners could actually learn and speak Korean....kkkk). But things changed when I became Mrs. Jeon, suddenly I felt like I was being forced to become a Korean in every way to the extent of ignoring where I came from. The government programs offered for marriage immigrants where all designed to help foreign spouses adjust to the Korean way of married life but no program was made available for the Korean husbands that would help them understand the way their foreign wives think and feel. It seemed like foreign spouses were only given one choice, become a Korean and ignore your place of origin....that's the only way you can survive Korea. But that's not the way things work, a successful marriage is a two way street, a couple should learn to understand each other, their feelings, their frustrations. Unfortunately in Korea, only the foreign spouse was forced to understand and adjust to the Korean way while the Korean husband just watched and observed without feeling the need to understand his wife's background.
Some people I know would say that I had a hard time adjusting in Korea and I would agree with that but not because I refuse to embrace the changes that surrounded me. I had a hard time adjusting because the things I imagined Korea would be as stated in Korean history books and as explained by my professors in graduate school became the opposite as I actually experience my so-called life in Korea. It was difficult to accept the fact that after being amazed about the history and culture of Korea, the mystery and passion for learning about Korea suddenly disappeared as soon as I got married with a Korean man not because of the man that I married but because of the society that swallowed me in their perfect concept of a homogeneous society.
Despite being able to know a lot of things about Korea before I became Mrs. Jeon, I still experienced hardships that caused me depression at some point. Depression that could have been prevented if I had a support group that could assist me with my new found life in Korea. A support group wherein one could share their experiences and expertise about living in Korea. This idea is something that I discussed endlessly with my close friend Myla. We would often talk about it for hours but since we were in a stage wherein our duties as stay-at-home moms came first, the idea stayed as an IDEA for years.
But it didn't stay that way for long, because on January 2013 we finally had the courage to spearhead a volunteer group that will help Filipina marriage immigrants in Uijeongbu, Yangju, and Dongducheon areas in Gyeonggi Province. The volunteer group we started was named AKABAYANG PINAY. The word "akbayan" comes from the Filipino word that means to put one's arm around another's shoulder as a sign of support or camaraderie while "Pinay" is a word that Filipinos use to refer to Filipinas.
Akbayang Pinay is an organization that aims to unite and support Filipinas married to Koreans. The group was formed to foster closer ties among the families of Filipinas married to Koreans by encouraging better understanding of the Philippines, its culture, history, and its people. Akbayang Pinay also intends to act as a bridge in bringing the Filipino marriage immigrants closer to the community by supporting the government’s efforts in integrating multicultural families in Korean society.
If you are a Filipina married to a Korean in Uijeongbu, Yangju, and Dongducheon we invite you to become a member of Akbayang Pinay. You can send us email at email@example.com or you can find Akbayang Pinay's facebook page. Let's help each other adjust to life in Korea.