Vietnam's house of virgins
On that Sunday itself, I sent off this letter to the editor of forum page
of The Straits Times. It has not been published. There can be any number
of reasons; I won't speculate here.
What it's about is quite obvious from the substance of my letter.
* * * * *
Actually there were two articles on 7 Feb, one headlined "Korean men look abroad for wives", and the other, "Filipinas hoping for better life find exploitation instead".
The first story featured Kim Jae Yon, a 36-year-old tailor, who recently found an Uzbek wife. It reported that "women from his own country had been put off by his average looks, average secondary school education and humble monthly salary of 1.2 million won (S$2,000)".
The number of international marriages in South Korea soared to 19,214 in 2003 from 11,017 the year before - an increase of 74 per cent - according to official statistics. Today, about 8 out of every 100 marriages involves a foreign spouse. About 70% of those involve ethnic-Korean brides from China, "while the rest are mainly from Vietnam, Thailand and Uzbekistan."
The process of finding a foreign bride is similar to the business of Vietnamese brides featured by the Sunday Times (30 Jan).
From the 7 Feb Korean story,
The motives are also similar.
Or so he would like to believe.
* * * * *
On the same page, below the Korean story , was the Filipina story. The opening line was,
A little further on,
And the same sorry tale of quickie decisions:
At least in the old days, they were more
honest. They called it the "bride price". They knew they were
* * * * *
Why is it that the Straits Times can highlight both sides of the tale when it comes to Koreans and Filipinas, but when it comes to Singaporeans, only the purchasers' side of the story is told?
Perhaps when it comes to marrying Singaporeans after posing seductively in a line-up for 3 minutes, the marriages all go wonderfully well and there is no downside. That's why there is nothing for the Sunday Times to report. Sure, and the moon is made of cheese.
Or perhaps, indeed, some of the bought marriages of Singaporeans don't work, but if no one comes to the Straits Times with such a story, how do we expect our newspaper to run it?
To be quite honest, such a scenario is quite possible, though this theory of relying on offered sources does suggest that the reason the Sunday Times keep running these "brides-for-sale" stories (three times, so far, remember?) is simply because the syndicates ask the Straits Times to help boost their business.
But why doesn't the Straits Times then go out to look for an accompanying "downside" story, in order to give balanced coverage? Immediately, the term "investigative journalism" comes to mind.
Some time back, Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng excoriated the Straits Times for "crusading journalism", when the newspaper reported on some cock-up involving the police force. After that, the media learnt their lesson and no longer go out sniffing for stories that make Singaporeans, especially those with government jobs, look bad. Thus, it's not likely that we'll see any reporter go looking for spousal abuse and major disappointment on the part of quickie foreign wives. "Balanced journalism" is trumped by the need to preserve heterosexual Singaporean male egos.
However, balanced journalism is alive and well when it comes to homosexuality. Everytime the media touches on the gay issue, they know the Media Development Authority's guidelines. Always find someone to say something bad or disapproving of homosexuality, never mind if the the guy's opinion is nothing more than prejudice, contrary to well-established facts. (It's as if when the newspaper does any story about Indian cultural traditions, they MUST find some one to say bigotted things about Indians, to "balance" the story.) If your article is all positive about gays, you'll get a rap from the MDA. You may even lose your publication licence altogether. (See the stories Manazine rapped (again) and Formula 17 banned)
What a wonderful country we live in!
© Yawning Bread