According to a Wall Street Journal report, Seoul's Justice Ministry has decided that those applying for a resident-by-marriage visa must pass a government-approved Korean language proficiency test and provide proof of income at over 14.8 million won ($13,750) in the past year.
The move was to to reduce "abnormal" marriages with foreign spouses
The language requirement can be opted out if the couple show that they communicate in a different tongue or if they have any children, the ministry said. They are also exempt if either partner or family members can show the couple can live without monetary trouble.
The stricter marriage laws will be in force from this week. According to the ministry sources, the move was to to reduce "abnormal" marriages arranged on the fly with foreign spouses, where it said a man and woman are paired in five days or less.
The practice of men "ordering" wives from matchmaking services has sparked national controversy since 2010, when the domestic media began reporting multiple murders of foreign young wives by Korean husbands.
Women from China and Vietnam are the largest group to travel to the country for such marriages, according to the immigration authorities. Bachelors, divorcees and widowers that struggle to find a South Korean wife have used services that find them a foreign match, often resulting in an unhappy marriage, domestic violence and a divorce.
Language and cultural differences are cited as the main reasons for problems in such marriages. Foreign women sent to Korea through matchmaking services and their children also often face social exclusion, experts say.
To respond to the problems that foreign women and their children face, South Korea has tried to offer more support, including shelters for domestic abuse victims and language courses.