On May 30, 2014, the Seoul Family Court handed down a ground-breaking decision which recognized the paternity between a Korean male and his children born out of lawful wedlock in the Philippines. The decision marked the first time ever that a Korean Family Court adjudicated on the parentage of so-called “Kopino”, the term for those children born between a Filipina mother and a Korean father out of marriage.
The sociocultural issue surrounding the Kopino has been the criticism that the Korean fathers have abandoned Kopinos by leaving Philippines and providing no supports. In this court case, the story was quite typical. The Korean father met a Philippine woman back in 1997, when he was running a toy manufacturing business in Philippines. In 1998 and 2000, they had 2 children. But he couldn’t marry her, because he was already married to another woman in South Korea. On April 14, 2004, he suddenly left Philippines alone and never contacted his children again. He had never paid any support for his children.
In December 2012, frustrated by the irresponsibility of the Korean father, the children’s mother in Philippines had moved to bring a legal action in Seoul Family Court against the Korean father to establish the paternity of her children. After 15-month litigation, the DNA test confirmed the blood ties between the Kopino children and the Korean father. Thanks to this DNA test, the Kopino children could win the case. And they are now entitled to the past and future child support from their Korean father.
As this is the first court case where the Kopino child won the paternity decision, many similar lawsuits from Kopinos could possibly be flooded into the Korean Family Courts in an attempt to secure their child supports and visitation with the fathers.
[Legal Note] As in other foreign legal regimes, the birth of a child out of wedlock does not, per se, create the legal status between the child and a putative father. In order to legally establish the paternity, there must be (i) an adjudication of paternity by a court; or (2) a formal acknowledgment of paternity by the putative father. Therefore, if the putative father refuses to voluntarily acknowledge the paternity, the mother or the children has to, and can, seek a paternity action in the Family Court. There is no statute of limitations, so long as the putative father is still alive. If the putative father is deceased, the paternity action must be filed within 2 year after the date of knowing his death. When the court declares the paternity by its decision, the child can secure his every legal right as the legitimate child. One important thing here is the legal effect of adjudication of paternity becomes retroactive. Therefore, the father must pay the past child support from the time of birth, let alone the future child support after the decision. Also the child who is recognized as legitimate child by the paternity decision is entitled to the inheritance right pursuant to the Korean inheritance law.
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