Foreign Brides Start New Careers as Professional Translators | Be Korea-savvy

Foreign Brides Start New Careers as Professional Translators

A foreign bride fills in an application at a job fair. (Image : Yonhap)

A foreign bride fills in an application at a job fair. (Image : Yonhap)

SEOUL, March 9 (Korea Bizwire)Women who migrated to Korea to marry Korean men are using their language skills to cultivate meaningful careers, by establishing cooperative associations and social ventures that provide translation services.

According to statistics from the Ministry of Justice, there are approximately 850,000 foreign brides in Korea, representing 45 percent of the total immigrant population.

While fighting against prejudice and discrimination commonly felt by immigrants, these women also face career stoppages caused by marriage and child care.

To help them cope with their struggles, government officials and other individuals came up with the idea to use the women’s language skills in the work force. As they are all fluent in their mother tongue, and also speak Korean well, the women started working as translators.

Headline Jeju, a local newspaper from Jeju Island, reported that the local government, Jeju Tourism Organization, and the Jeju Multicultural Family Support Center trained 40 marriage migrant women from the area to be tour guides who also provide translation and interpretation services.

As the number of foreign tourists visiting Jeju is increasing, the supply of tour guides who speak Chinese or other South East Asian languages can’t keep up with the high demand. By training the foreign brides to work as tour guides, the local government is catching two birds with one stone – helping the women to develop new careers, and at the same time, providing quality tourism.

In the meantime, foreign brides in Busan are establishing a cooperative association specializing in translation. After registering as a corporation, they plan to start business officially by the end of April.

The co-op is the fruit of a project led by ‘Together with Immigrants’, an organization supporting those who settled in Korea from foreign countries since 2010. The co-op will provide translation services to foreign brides, and train those who wish to work as translators. The co-op plans to receive certification as a social enterprise, offering foreign brides the opportunity to build a new career.

Some women are stepping out on their own. The social venture ‘On Asia’ provides translation services to clients, but at the same time, creates opportunities for foreign brides.

Founder and CEO Lee Hyun-sun (31) herself is one of the many foreign brides. In an interview with, the online journal of Chosunilbo, Lee described experiencing fading career prospects after four or five years of child care. While she was struggling to re-start her career, she realized there were so many women in the same situation as her. Having worked as a professional translator, she came up with a business model that was perfect for other foreign brides.

On Asia not only provides the women with jobs, but also offers opportunities for further learning, including lectures from translation experts or news anchors. The women working as translators at On Asia commented that the company gave them the exact support multicultural households need.

Ireshya (41), who works as a translator of Sinhala, the Sri Lankan language, agrees. “There were many programs at various multicultural support centers, but not many were helpful and they always ended by taking a picture to post on their web site. But I feel that On Asia helped us a lot, as the company is cultivating our real abilities.”

By Francine Jung (

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