[Q&A: Family Law] I Am Not Living in Korea. Can I File for Divorce in Korea? If Can, What Should I Know about Korean Divorce Law and Its Proceedings?

Q) I wish to file a divorce from my wife.  Our relationship ended in practice earlier this year and she returned to Korea in August. We were married in Korea. I wonder how can I file for our divorce as she is in Korea but I am not living in Korea. I would prefer uncontested but would go with a contested divorce if necessary. But I am living in the UK. Can you tell me what process I should pursue?

A) At the outset, as your wife lives in Korea, you can file for divorce to a Korean Family Court.  Even if your wife does not have a Korean nationality, it is still the same. But you probably need to hire a Korean legal counsel who can represent you in the court, as you are not living in Korea and more importantly you might not be familiar with how the divorce works in Korea. With that said, if you hire a Korean divorce attorney, you are not required to come to Korea nor to attend the court.  Your Korean divorce attorney will handle everything for you.

The next issue will be which nation’s divorce law will govern your case, when you file for divorce in Korea.  If your wife is a Korean, then the Korean divorce law shall be the governing law.  If your wife is a UK citizen, then the divorce law of the UK shall apply.

When the Korean divorce law becomes the governing law, in order to get a divorce decree, you have to show some types of justifiable causes for divorce under Korean law such as domestic violence, unchastity, etc.  Not surprisingly, the Korean court quite often issues a divorce ruling when it founds the marriage was irretrievably broken.  Common grounds for this ‘irretrievably broken’ can be a financial issue, the difference of personality or anything which makes it impossible to sustain normal marriage life.  Of course, if your wife does not object to your divorce claim, the judge will grant the divorce without questioning the existence of justifiable divorce grounds.

Also, you have to think about the issue of asset distribution.  Have you something to be divided with your wife? Any debts to be divided? Please note only the property acquired during the marital relationship is the assets to be distributed.  Assets obtained before the marriage is, in principle, not the subject.  But it is not always easy to decide which property is included and which one is not.  So you need to consult with a competent divorce lawyer with respect to the financial aspect of the potential divorce.

If you have a child, you must consider the issue of child custody and child support.  Interestingly, there is no concept of alimony under the Korean divorce law.  So the spouse is relieved from the burden of supporting his spouse when the divorce is finalized.

Lastly, if it turns out the other spouse is responsible for the marriage breakdown, you are entitled to monetary compensation for your emotional distress caused by the other spouse.

Divorce is not an easy one.  It is quite stressful.  Sometimes it could be more stressful and hurting than living together and seeking reconciliation.  So try everything to settle things out.  When it doesn’t work, however, your last resort will be going to court.

If you have any questions about Korean divorce law and its proceedings, please visit our Legal Consultation center or send your inquiry email by clicking here.  Our Korean licensed lawyers will answer your inquiry.

Also, you can find a stack of legal information and articles on Korean divorce law, written by a Korean qualified lawyer, by clicking here.

© 2011 Wonil Chung, a Korean Licensed Lawyer. All rights reserved.


  1. Dear Sir/Madam,
    I had a similar situation: I am American, and my husband is Korean. I signed my divorce paper with my husband in July 2017 and left Korea. however, in October, he told me he annulled the divorce in Sep 2017 (within 3 months after the divorce, he said he can do it based on Korean law), so now the divorce is not valid anymore. could you please tell me is it true that you can do this on your own without inform the other party according to the law? and how should I re-file a divorce if I am not living in Korea anymore? Thanks a lot.

  2. Hello, I found myself in a similar case as above. However we only registered in Korea 6 months ago and have not lived together since then. We were planning to start living together in the UK soon but everything changed now and we think it is probably better to let it go now before things turn sour. Is it possible to get annulment of the marriage instead of a divorce?

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