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April 28, 2008

Troubles and Issues

An excellent example of paper 1 by Ngan Nguyen.

Hong Nuong was born and grew up in a poor farmer family in Southern Dong Thap in the Mekong Delta Region. When Nuong was a high school junior, she left school to help her mother with the farming and take care of her sick father and younger siblings. Although Nuong and her mother worked hard in the field from sunrise to sunset, they couldn't earn enough money to support the family. Gradually, Nuong's family was in heavy debt. Nuong moved to Cao Lanh and worked at a restaurant in town to earn more money. After a few months, the restaurant's owner gave Nuong the phone number of a matchmaker in Saigon who promised to find girls rich husbands from Taiwan. Nuong thought so much about it. Nuong knew it would be difficult to live with a strange husband, who didn't speak the same language, in a strange country, but it was Nuong's only way to escape from poverty. Through a matchmaker in Saigon, Nuong married Wang Liang, the thirty-seven year old Taiwanese man, and received $5,000 from him. For Nuong, the dollars from her Taiwanese husband was significantly important to her family in paying off family's debts and going to support her four younger siblings in school. But was it really better when she put her happiness in the hands of fortune and marriage decided by dollars?

After Nuong got to Taiwan, her husband completely ignored her as if he was a different person that she had never met. Nuong later learned that he was an alcoholic. In Taiwan, Nuong had to work more than twelve hours a day but got no money. Wang Liang took all the money she earned. He beat Nuong badly whenever he found that she had saved a little money to send home. In addition, after a short time living in his family, Nuong was sexually assaulted by her 64-year-old father in law. In her first assault, Nuong cried and asked help from Wang, but he coldly replied, "We paid you $5,000, and so it's your responsibility to take our orders." Although Nuong was suicidal, her mother-in-law, a crippled and old woman, couldn't help her solve the problem except encouraging her to continue to live and wait for a chance to get out of that damn place.

One year later, Wang told Nuong to work in a bar in the small town. During the time Nuong was working at the bar, Wang realized that Nuong still looked beautiful and got attention of many men who came into the bar. Wang forced Nuong to have sex with the men who wanted her to earn more money for him. Nuong refused him at first. Wang beat Nuong badly, tied her in the corner of the house, and didn't give her anything to eat or drink until she agreed to take his orders. "He has my papers and money, so I can't do anything except following his orders to send home $50 each month," Nuong recalled after her return home.

After a year working as a prostitute, Nuong realized that she couldn't continue her disgraceful life any more. Nuong implored her mother-in-law to help her steal her papers back from Wang and finally got her to promise. One day in May of 2006, she ran away after she got her papers and $500 from her mother-in-law. Nuong finally returned home, but brought a deadly disease, HIV, in her body. Only in two years, Nuong, a charming, virtuous, and beautiful young girl, now became an emaciated woman with a deadly illness. She was barely 20 years old.

Nuong's trouble highlights the issue of marriages between Taiwanese men and Vietnamese women. Marrying a Taiwanese husband is not a new phenomenon in Mekong Delta Provinces in recent years. With the illusion that they can have a better life in a foreign country, thousands of young girls from poor and rural Mekong Delta Provinces marry Taiwanese men, mostly in the late thirties and forties. Until end of 2007, a total of more than 76,000 Vietnamese brides had come to Taiwan (Ke 1). Unfortunately, many young Vietnamese brides fall into a lucky life of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and worse than that, human trafficking. John R. Miller, director of Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons announced that many Vietnamese brides were forced into sexual industry in brothels in Taiwan after their arrival into Taiwan (4). According to the estimation of the Vietnamese Government, there were about 10 percent of Vietnamese brides in arranged marriages, which through brokers became "trafficking victims" ("Vietnam").

Basing on C.Wright Mills' distinction between troubles, which are personal problems that they experienced in their private lives, and issues, which are the problems that affect a large number of people due to particular social and historical context. Nuong's personal trouble reflects social issue of thousands of other Vietnamese girls marrying Taiwanese men. Marrying Taiwanese men has become an issue for both sides, Vietnam and Taiwan, to consider their international marriage, immigration policies, and even the process of interview for visas.

In uncovering the societal origins of this issue, "sociological imagination" is critical to examine how "social context" shape individuals' behaviors. Sociological imagination is the capacity to see individuals' experiences and difficulties under the influence of "societal patterns," and the times in which they live (Anderson and Taylor, 5). Sociological imagination helps us to see the social forces that affect the way individuals interact with one another, the behaviors they choose, and the beliefs they hold.
What are the causes that Nuong and other young Vietnamese girls in Mekong Delta provinces decide to marry a stranger, a foreigner, and living in a strange country. Is there only because of their wish to get rid of poverty? Mills explains that the task of sociology is to learn the relationship and interaction between individuals and larger social structure of the society they live in. Mills also points out that in order to understand the how society influence individuals' experiences within it, the knowledge of the particular "social and historical context" is significant important. This knowledge is also the key to analyze and solve both troubles and issues that an individuals or groups of people facing with. From this perspective, we should look at the whole picture of Vietnam society including economy, culture, government and other underlying social forces that effects people's beliefs, behaviors, and decisions.

In rural areas, country folks usually earn about $20 a month compare to $480 in Taiwan; therefore, in many poor families, the young daughters are asked to marry Taiwanese to get the money from their prospective Taiwanese husbands. Moreover, these daughters will be able to send money home every month (Dowling 2). In Vietnam, after the marriage between a Taiwanese groom and a Vietnamese bride is officially recorded by the Taiwanese representative office in Vietnam, it is easy to get a visa to live in Taiwan (Eyton 2). Although marriage brokering is not legal in Vietnam, it is very difficult for Vietnamese government to enforce the law on brokering due to the brokers' sly operations. Brokers find and bring poor girls from the Mekong Delta Provinces to Saigon to meet the prospective Taiwanese husbands. Matchmaking services grow rapidly in Saigon due to $2,000-$2,500 profit from each successful marriage (Le 2)

We are shaped by our society, our culture, and our time and by the groups we belong to. Sociology imagination shows us what these things are and how they influence our behavior. Obviously, sociology leads us to the " path to understanding society and making a difference in people's lives" (Anderson and Taylor).

Works Cited
Andersen, Magaret L. and Howard F. Taylor. Sociology in Everyday Life. Thomson Wadsworth, United State of America.

Dowling, Claudia Glenn. "These Girls Are about to Meet Their Future Husband. So Why Don't They Look Happy?" Marie Claire (US); Jul2004, Vol.11 Issue 7, p56-62, 6p. MasterFILE Premier. EbscoHost. Portland Community College Library, OR. 28 Feb. 2008.

Eyton, Laurence. "Trouble and Strife: Taiwan's Imported Brides." Asia Times. 2 Oct. 2003. 3 Mar. 2008 < http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/EJ02Ad03.html>.

Ke, Yu-Ling. "Marriage Immigrants in Taiwan." The Pearl S. Buck Foundation. 2 Mar. 2008. .

Le, Quang Hanh. "VN-Taiwan Discuss Brides' Rights in Illegally-Made Matches." VietNamNet. 23 Aug. 2008. 28 Feb. 2008 .

Miller, John R. "Exploring Potential Links between Human Trafficking and International Marriage Brokering." Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Person, U.S. 2004. 30

Feb. 2008 < http://usinfo.state.gov/eap/Archive/2004/Jul/19-729671.html>.
"Vietnam Is a Source and Destination for Human Trafficking." Human Trafficking. 2006. 2 Mar. 2008 .