Tomoko Nakamatsu


Marriage migration broadly refers to ‘migration within or as a result of marriage’ (Palriwala and Uberoi 2008: 23). It encompasses domestic or cross-border, and intra – or inter-ethnic (or inter-cultural) marriage. A marriage migrant may be female or male.

While marriage migration has a long history in Asia, the intra-regional flow has started to increase in volume over the last 20 or 30 years, and has become particularly rapid in the past ten years in some regions (Jones and Shen 2008: 9—12; Lu and Yang 2010: 15). This increase reflects multiple regional issues: integrated yet stratified economic development and shifts in political relations and changing gender relations within each East Asian country. On a more personal level, it also reveals individuals’ desires: marriage for men, and marriage and migration for women; and the way their aspirations are mediated by their geographical, economic, political and social positions. The type of marriage migration addressed in this chapter is cross-border and female, with women migrating from poorer to richer regions of Asia, namely Japan, South Korea and Taiwan — all of which share the significant demographic trends of late marriages, falling birth rates and aging populations.

In this chapter I explore present-day female marriage migration in East Asia through a selective survey of literature, highlighting migrants’ experiences. I will first introduce the key issues involved in studies of gender and marriage migration, provide an overview of migration patterns and suggest reasons for the increase from the point of view of the receiving countries. I will then look at migrant women’s experiences, exploring their motivations for marriage, their relationships with their husbands and other members of their new families, the meanings placed on paid work and concerns surrounding social and legal citizenship. When they migrate, women courageously negotiate their places in often complex and challenging circumstances. While marriage migration is not an Asia-specific phenomenon, in this chapter I will delineate its regional expression: an intricate link between gender and mobility.