By Yoon Ja-young
Aura Aurel Abache, a Filipino who was naturalized as a Korean after marrying a Korean man in 1999, never expected her name to be a problem in living as a Korean. The housewife in Gokseong, South Jeolla Province, soon found that her Filipino name was too long, difficult, and her children were even made fun of by other kids at school for their mother's name.
She wanted to get an official and legal Korean name, and knocked on the doors of Nonghyup, or the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, in her town, for help. The farmers' bank in Gokseong helped her change her name to Lee Mi-sun in October 2007.
``The number of immigrant wives married to Korean men is surging, especially in rural areas. We found that they often face difficulties in their daily lives due to their long, peculiar name, even if they become naturalized as Koreans and get resident registration numbers,'' said Maeng Seok-in, a spokesperson of Nonghyup.
He said Nonghyup has been helping these people jointly with Korea Legal Aid Corporation.
Last year, around 20 migrant wives got Korean names. Zakirova Hanifa Amiridi Novna, who married a Korean man in 2002 and now resides in Inje, Gangwon Province, is one of them. The Nonghyup Branch in Inje County helped her change her name to Kim Young-mi in November last year.
They are not only getting Korean names but new last names, which, in Korea, indicate family origin. As for Lee, for example, there are various Lee families from different regions. Lees from Jeonju, Gyeongju and Hansan, for example, are all separate family names. These immigrant wives became founders of their Korean last names. Kim Young-mi, for example, became the founder of Inje Kim family.
Maeng said it takes up to three months to complete the procedure. Those who have been living in Korea for over two years, marry Koreans and became naturalized as Koreans and currently residing in rural areas can apply for the Nonghyup program. They can visit the farmers' bank in their provinces and get help. Nonghyup pays all the legal fees, which amount to between 300,000 won and one million won.