[Updated on February 10th, 2020] We have been frequently asked about getting divorced in Korea as foreigners.  In this article, we provide you with the most essential information about divorcing in Korea.

Can Foreigners Get a Divorce Decree from the Korean Court?

Yes, Korean divorce law doesn’t treat foreigners differently.  Foreign spouses who married Korean citizens and even foreign spouses who married non-Korean citizens can divorce in Korea.

One thing to note is the Korean courts’ rule of jurisdiction which applies to international divorce.  Generally speaking, the Korean court will accept a divorce filing when the other spouse, i.e. the respondent, resides in Korea.

There is an exception to this.  In certain situations, the foreign spouse can get a divorce decree from the Korean court even when (more…)

“I am an adoptee from South Korea to the U.S. Currently I live in the U.S.  Recently I found my biological parents died in South Korea.  He is survived by his wife and 2 sons.  He had businesses in Korea.  Can an adopted child inherit from biological parents in Korea?  I have never met or spoken to his wife and sons and so I don’t know if he had a will written.  What are my inheritance rights under Korean law?”

Everything Boils Down to Whether it is Full Adoption or Simple Adoption

A legal child is entitled to inheritance from his/her deceased parent. When the child is adopted, some jurisdictions treat the adoption as disconnecting the legal relationship with the biological parent, and some jurisdictions don’t. We call the former as a full adoption and the latter as a simple adoption.

As you can understand from the general idea of inheritance, an adopted child can inherit from biological parents in Korea only when the adoption is regarded as (more…)

Q) I’m an American and my wife is Korean. She is living in Korea and I have returned to the USA. We have agreed to divorce. However, I can’t go back to Korea just to sign the papers. Is it possible to have her do it? Or have her email me the divorce agreement for me to sign and return to her? I just want to know how to divorce when the spouse doesn’t live in Korea.

Spouses Can Live in Different Country to File for Divorce in Korea

In general, the Korean court requires at least one spouse to reside in Korea in order to process the divorce filing. Thus, the fact that one spouse resides in a foreign country doesn’t bar a spouse living in Korea to file for divorce. The issue, however, lies in a procedural matter.

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(Case)

I am a U.S. citizen.  I currently have a very complicated inheritance case in South Korea.  My father passed away 10 years ago in the U.S. and his two Korean half brothers in Korea are currently suing my family for my father’s portion as well as my father’s sister’s portion as she passed away many years ago.  They are claiming they want 60% of my father’s portion and all of my aunt.  There is no will left by my grandfather.  They are claiming that they took care of the grandfather who was a Korean citizen.  However, when my father was alive he also sent money regularly to his father and his half brothers but as it was more than 10 years ago I am uncertain how to proceed.

Governing Law Issue

Inheritance gets more complicated when it has some sort of multinational issues.  Here the Korean heirs sued the U.S. heirs at the Korean court.  The deceased was a Korean national and it is probable that the majority of the estate is located in Korea.  That might be one of the reasons why this case should be litigated in Korea, not the U.S.

In an international inheritance case, we first need to find out which country’s law shall apply.  As this case was filed with the Korean court, the Korean court decides this issue pursuant to their own choice of law doctrines.  According to the Korean choice of law, the law of the deceased’s country shall become the governing law.  That means, in our case, the Korean Inheritance law shall apply. (Please refer to this article regarding the basic of Korean Inheritance law)

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Q) I was born in Korea but married a US citizen, moved to the US and am now a US citizen.I learned that my father has passed away in Korea and am looking for some assistance on accepting or renouncing the inheritance.  I was the forth child. After I was born, my parents divorced and the first two children went with my father and the third child and I went with my mother. My father remarried and had three other children. My mother and the second wife are still alive.  I was told that the estate includes property (house) and some savings.  The second wife wants to live in the house until she dies and it sounds like my other siblings agreed.  My half brother with whom I’ve had no previous contact called and said they need my cooperation to proceed.  He asked me to sign some Korean document which I don’t understand. I’m trying to decide whether to accept or renounce the inheritance and how to accomplish either of those in the easiest way possible.

A) Under Korean inheritance law, currently you are the co-owner of the total estate without any registration or report.  Other heirs cannot distribute, dispose of the estate without your consent.

The heirs in Korea might be in a hurry to pay the inheritance tax which might be one of the reasons why he contacted you.  But, you should not give them the power of attorney or any authorization/consent until you have the information you need which includes your deceased parent’s name, Korean residence registration number and the detail of the estate.  If he refuses to provide that, I think that is a red flag.  At least he should let you know the Korean resident registration number, which is (more…)

Private Adoption is Legal in South Korea

The answer is yes, private adoption is legal in South Korea.  There are two types of adoption under the Korean legal system.  One is a private adoption and the other one is a foster care/institutional adoption.  Private adoption is an adoption that is initiated by a private placement from the birth parent without the involvement of any adoption agency.    The most important distinction of private adoption is that it is regulated by the Civil Code and it cannot be executed for a child in a foster care or an orphanage.  Any child who is in a foster care or an orphanage (“Special Protection Child”) should be adopted through the government-approved adoption agency.  This foster care adoption is regulated not by the Civil Code but by the Act on Special Case Concerning Adoption.

Private Adoption and Foster Care Adoption Are Regulated by Totally Different Legal Systems

Although the two adoptions are regulated by totally different legal systems, many people often confuse these two.  As a foster care adoption must be taken care of by an adoption agency, non-foster care adoption, i.e. a private adoption, (more…)

When you divorce under Korean law, there are subsequent legal matters of property division and consolation money.

A property division is a legal right of any spouse who is divorced under the Korean law.  Some people think a spouse at fault is not awarded this right, but that is not true.  There was a court case where even a spouse who cheated on the wife can claim for property division.

The subject of division is any and every marital asset acquired and/or maintained during the marriage.  The debts are also divided.

When dividing the marital asset, the Korean court will decide and apply the contributor share of each party in the course of acquiring and maintaining the marital assets regardless of whose name is on it.  The most common ratio is 50:50.  But when the time of marriage is very short and the value of the assets is high, (more…)

1Recently our office represented U.S. parents whose adoption application had been denied by the Korean court.  The adoption was processed as an institutional adoption which is regulated by the Act on Special Cases Concerning the Promotion and Procedure of Adoption.  Institutional adoption, often called an orphanage adoption, is under more strict regulation and qualifications than a private adoption.  In this case, the 1st instance court of Seoul Family Court denied the U.S. parents’ adoption petition due to the concern caused by the adoptive parent’s past medical history of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Our office, led by lawyer Mr. Wonil Chung, took this case at the appellate court level.  We reviewed the entire record and documents from the beginning and found that the lower court’s finding and the conclusion were not based on the true facts, but on the vague concern.  We even found a critical error in the translation of the ODC evaluation report provided by the Korean adoption agency.

Mr. Chung argued in front of the appellate judges that U.S. medical professionals had stated that the petitioner’s OCD did not harm his suitability as an adoptive parent.   He also pointed out that the U.S. government had (more…)

Divorce could be one of the hardest decisions that people make during their entire life.  If people decide to divorce, one question they might ask their Korean divorce lawyer is how long it will take to get the divorce decree from the Korean Family Court.  The short answer to this question is that it depends, the magic phrase that the lawyers would love to use in almost every dialogue.  The thing is, however, that it really depends on various factors, especially what types of divorce they are going through.  It could be a contested divorce or an uncontested divorce, which requires totally different approach and care.

If it is an uncontested divorce which means the parties have been able to agree about all the issues involved in a divorce such as custody, child support, visitation, property division and consolation money, the divorce decree can be obtained within 1 to 2 months.  That is pretty fast compared to other countries.  The parties don’t need to appear at the court so long as a Korean divorce attorney takes care of the case.  That is how our office in Seoul has been handling the uncontested divorce cases.

If the divorce is contested, it requires more time for the Korean Family Court to render a divorce decree.  It should go through several hearings and extensive arguments between the parties. (more…)

Unlike situations in some states in the U.S., a prenuptial agreement is somewhat in a grey area in Korean legal system.  When the case later goes into a divorce by agreement, the prenup would be fully honored by the court, too.  When the case, however, goes into a judicial divorce or a contested divorce, the Korean court applies more strict standard in honoring the validity and application scope of the prenuptial agreement.

I would not say signing a prenuptial agreement is meaningless.  To the contrary having a prenuptial agreement is better than having no such agreement.  Even in case of a contested divorce, the existence of a prenuptial agreement could work for your advantage when the court decides which property shall be distributed and which property shall be opted out.

If you have any question regarding this article or you are in a similar case/situation , please visit our Legal Consultation center or send your inquiry email by clicking here.  Our Korean qualified lawyer will answer your inquiry.

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Q) I am a US citizen who married a Korean wife. We moved to California 5 years ago.  This year, she suddenly left and refused to return home with our son.  It has been 3 months but she flat out denies my right to be with him.  I am not abusive nor have I ever been violent towards her or our son.  I have already sent in my Hague Convention Application to the U.S. State Department to start the Hague process. I would like to know if your firm has handled Hague cases for International Parental Child Abduction.

South Korea Is a Contracting Nation to Hague Child Abduction Convention

On December 13, 2012, South Korea had become the 89th contracting nation to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“Hague Child Abduction Convention”, please refer to our previous article).

Hague Child Abduction Convention aims to secure the prompt return of the children under the age of 16 who were wrongfully removed or retained from their countries of habitual residence.

As South Korea and the U.S are both contracting nations of the Hague Child Abduction Convention, you may get a child return order from the Korean court when your child was taken into South Korea without your consent.

Our office had dealt with the first Hague international child abduction case at the Seoul Family Court and succeeded in getting the child back to her habitual residence. (The case was settled by the respondent’s voluntary return after we had filed an application with the court)

In this article, our international child abduction attorney in Korea explains how the Korean court and attorneys can help the return of your child under the Hague Child Abduction Convention.

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Q) I have a question about whether to renounce inheritance in Korea. My mother passed away a few months ago. There was no will. She was a Korean citizen and her husband too. All two children live in the U.S. and they are U.S. citizens. As we understand I have inherited a 2/7 share of my mother’s condominium and some cash in Korea. My stepfather and his Korean lawyer seem to up to no good. They both have sent conflicting and in my opinion false information to me. Especially his lawyer is threatening me that I would not able to sell my share so I had no choice but to give up or transfer my share. The stepfather asked me to sign POA and a Renunciation of Inheritance but I refused. They even said as I am not a Korean citizen, it would be much better renouncing inheritance for the sake of estate distribution. He said he will compensate me for my renounced share. Can you give me any advice?

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We have received many inquiries regarding the child support obligation and custody/visitation rights under Korean law.  Some cases are related to the divorcing parties and some to the unmarried couples who had babies during the relationship.

In case of unmarried couples, the birth father has no parental rights and obligations until his paternity is established in Korea.  That can be done in 2 ways.  One is to report himself as the father with the Korean local government and the other one is filing a paternity suit.

When the parental relationship is established, the parties need to agree on the matters of child custody, visitation and child support.  The same goes for the couple divorcing in South Korea.  When it is hard to reach an agreement, (more…)

(Question) I have a question regarding my current situation with my ex-husband. He is a Korean national and working there in South Korea.  I lived there until 2014 when I came back to Washington and filed a divorce complaint here. Since then he has refused to speak with me.  This year my US lawyer duly served him with the paper but he just kept ignoring it.  At any rate, I got a divorce decree and child support ruling for my baby this April.  Now I am wondering how I can enforce my US ruling in Korea, knowing that he is living a  luxurious life and feels that he can just ignore his child and the responsibilities that come with it.

(Answer) I have to say that there is something unclear in this case.  If the court proceedings in Washington(WA) court have been duly made, i.e. (i) the WA court had proper jurisdiction and (ii) he was duly served, you can apply for its execution in Korea. Otherwise, you may initiate the whole process de nuvo in Korea.  The second threshold seems to have been met here. Thus, the real issue here rather is the first one.

Please note that the jurisdiction must be acknowledged in the view of Korean law, not the WA law. Thus, even though the WA ruling says the WA court has proper jurisdiction, the Korean court will (more…)

[Updated on April 19th, 2020] Under the Korean inheritance law, the inheritance comes to fruition immediately when a person is deceased. The Korean inheritance law, the part V of Civil Act, provides who shall become the inheritor and beneficiary of the property of a deceased person, i.e. estate.

The inheritor and beneficiary, however, shall not always take everything from the estate. There are separate rules and restrictions on the distribution of the estate in South Korea.

In this article, we will explain to you the basic rules and practices of inheritance in Korea.

Who Shall Become the Heirs and How to Distribute the Estate under the Korean Inheritance Law

The basic rule of the Korean inheritance law is that the property of the deceased is distributed according to his or her will.  So, a person who is not categorized as an inheritor by law can become a beneficiary of the estate by the decedent’s will. 

What if there is no valid will?  The Korean inheritance law sets forth the rule of intestate succession.  This rule of intestate succession names the beneficiary and the shares of each beneficiary for a distribution purpose.  

According to the intestate succession rule, persons become beneficiaries in the following order.

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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 (more…)

Question) I am a US citizen and have been living with my Korean boy friend for about 3 years in South Korea.  We loved each other and agreed to marry, but we were so busy to have the legal process timely done and most importantly we found no need to do that.  We’ve just thought each other as husband and wife and so do our friends and families. While living together, he ran an Internet business and made a quite large profits from there.  I took care of every housework and sometimes I helped his business work, too. But, recently I found he had cheated on me. I was so shocked and got separated from him.  My concern is whether I have any right to the assets accumulated during our cohabitation, like a property division right between divorcing couple.

Answer) Under Korean law, in order to establish the marital relationship, the parties must report their marriage to the government.  Just having a wedding ceremony is not enough.  If the parties live together considering themselves each other’s spouse without reporting the marriage, it is called a de facto marriage.  A de facto marriage is not a legal marriage.  Thus it is not entitled to the same level of legal protection as the legal marriage.  But, when it comes to the resolution of the de facto marriage relationship, the Korean law applies almost identical protection to the parties.

First, the Korean law grants the right of property division to each party of the de facto marriage.  Each party is entitled to the share of the assets acquired during the relationship pursuant to his or her contribution.  Even if the party is solely responsible for the relationship breakdown, the person is still entitled to.  Second, a party can seek a consolation money against the other party, if the other party is solely responsible for the relationship breakdown.  The amount the party can seek is decided by various (more…)

그림 3

On December 13, 2012, South Korea acceded to the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (“Hague Child Abduction Convention”), whereby South Korea became the 89th contracting nation to the convention.

Concluded in October 1980, the Hague Child Abduction Convention is a multilateral treaty aiming at the prompt return of wrongfully removed or retained child from one contracting nation to another.  Under the Convention, any person or institution claiming that a child has been removed or retained in breach of custody rights may apply to any other contracting nation for assistance in securing the return of the child.

As with the Convention entering into force on March 1, 2013, South Korea enacted subsequent domestic legislation concerning the implementation of the Convention.  Under the new legislation, the foreign spouse who is the citizen of the contracting nation of the Convention can make an application to the Minister of Justice of South Korea for the assistance of the return of a child wrongfully abducted to South Korea.  The case asserting the return of the child pursuant to the Convention is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Seoul Family Court.  The court may issue a preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo.  Also, the court may dismiss the application for the return of the child when, among others, it has passed 1 or more years since the abduction and the child has already adjusted herself into the current environment.  The person who (more…)

Q) I have a friend who is living in New York.  He is a US Citizen who has resided in New York for several years. His wife is from South Korea, but they have not seen each other since 2009. I don’t believe there is any animosity; he just wants to file for divorce since they are no longer in contact. My friend has not been able to get in contact with her for some time, and her family is unsure of her whereabouts as well. The parties were married in South Korea. My friend has been residing in New York so he can file here for divorce; however I am concerned about having proper service there in Korea, especially since we are unsure of her whereabouts. I believe it may be beneficial for my friend to contact a Korean Attorney. I also need to make sure that his wife did not already file for divorce in South Korea or else us filing her is a duplication of services.

A) If your friend is unable to locate his wife in Korea and concerned about the issue of proper service when filing for divorce in New York, he could have an idea to file for divorce in Korea.  In a case where the plaintiff does not know the whereabouts of the defendant, the Korean court issues a divorce decree in ex parte.   (more…)

We have received questions regarding this issue quite often.  Actually our office had taken a civil case arising out of termination of marital engagement between Korean and non-Korean, and successfully defended our client from civil liability.  So we think it is a good time to look into what happens in this kind of legal dispute and its legal implication.

Firstly, it must be mentioned that, under Korean law, if a matrimonial engagement is duly made, no party can legally terminate or rescind the engagement without justifiable causes.  This, however, does not mean the engagement shall be enforced regardless of the objection from the other party once the engagement agreement was made.  Rather, it just means if one party terminates the engagement without cause, he or she is obliged to pay monetary compensation to the other.

Then what are  the “justifiable causes” to terminate the engagement?  The law sets forth justifiable causes as follows:

  1. If one of the parties has been sentenced to punishment of not less than suspension of qualification;
  2. If one of the parties has been adjudicated as incompetent or quasi-incompetent after (more…)

Let’s assume a creditor has a monetary claim against a debtor in Korea but the debtor refuses to pay it.  The creditor would proceed to file a lawsuit to get a judgment to collect his claim.  Unfortunately, however, the chances are that, knowing the complaint was filed, the debtor would try to conceal or transfer his assets to evade from the liability under judgment.  This shows why provisional attachment is highly required to secure the judgment effectively.

Provisional attachment is a judicial measure available to anyone who has a monetary claim to lock down certain assets to keep the debtor from selling or giving them away until the court issues a judgment on the merit. The creditor can, and usually does, seek a provisional remedy before she files a complaint on the merit.  So, this is a very powerful weapon for the creditor.  For example, as many Korean creditors do, if the creditor succeeds in putting a provisional attachment on the debtor’s bank account, the debtor would not be able to use the money and could face several penalties regarding its banking/financing transactions with the bank.  This could heavily deteriorate the ability for a small com­pany to con­duct business, which makes the debtor (more…)

Q) I filed for divorce in Ontario, Canada.  My husband lived in Canada and he was duly served with the court’s documents.  I will have a final divorce ruling from the Canadian court including child support and alimony order soon.  But the issue is he will probably leave Canada and head to South Korea after the ruling is issued.  Will the Korean Courts recognize the Canadian court order in order to enforce his performance of child support and alimony payment?

A) There is a case where the Korean Supreme Court recognized and approved the Canadian court’s divorce/asset distribution/child support/alimony order.  That order was issued from the Superior Court of Justice in Ontario.

As a matter of law, the Korean court recognizes a foreign ruling pursuant to the rules of foreign judgment recognition: (i) the foreign court has jurisdiction over the case in perspective of Korean law, (ii) the defendant was duly served, (iii) the ruling of the foreign court does not violate the social order of South Korea and (iv) there exists a mutual guaranty for recognition of rulings between the two jurisdictions.

For the last element, the Korean Supreme Court clearly declared that South Korea and Ontario have a mutual guaranty.

What is more important in this ruling is that the Supreme Court recognized the foreign court’s alimony order.  Under Korean divorce law, there is no legal concept of alimony in a divorce.  Therefore, some may argue that as the alimony is not the legal right established in Korea, recognizing the foreign court’s alimony ruling in Korea would violate the social order of  South Korea.  But, (more…)

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 (more…)

Q) I have some questions about marriage and divorce law in Korea regarding two non-Koreans living in Korea.  Can they divorce and re-marry in Korea?

A) The Korean court hears an international divorce lawsuit basically if the defendant resides in Korea.  So long as the defendant resides in Korea, the duration of his residence does not matter. Even if the plaintiff does not reside in Korea, she can file a divorce lawsuit to a Korean court. If the defendant does not reside in Korea, the divorce lawsuit can be accepted only when the plaintiff fails to locate the defendant or the defendant answers the lawsuit filed under the Korean court.

Regarding the governing law, the divorce case shall be governed in the following order:

  1. the same law of nationality of both spouses
  2. the same law of the habitual residence of both spouses
  3. the law of the place where is most closely connected with both spouses.

If one party is a Korean national having a habitual residence in Korea, notwithstanding the foregoing, the law of South Korea will be the governing law.

The Korean court shall decide (more…)

Q) Most of my friends say if you’ve got separated for many years, it is easy to apply for a divorce.  Is that true?

A) Basically being separated for many years is, by itself, not a justifiable cause for a judicial divorce under Korea divorce law.  The key issue will be why both of you have been separated.  If it is because of your husband’s violence and/or maltreatment, you’re surely entitled to a divorce decree from a Korean Family court, even if you’re separated for only 1 day.  On the contrary, if you’ve maliciously (more…)

Q) I’m a U.S. citizen married to a Korean woman having one child.  Currently, we live apart and our child’s living time is split between us. I wouldn’t mind this situation if I knew she could be trusted to care for him safely and properly. But she can’t do this. I’m incredibly worried about his present safety and his emotional development. We have the papers but she won’t sign them, she uses our marital situation to manipulate me. Is there any way I can file for divorce without her consent? If so, where can I do this? Also, what would I need to do to obtain sole parental authority after the divorce?

A) If she keeps refusing to sign the divorce agreement, you have no choice but to file a divorce lawsuit with a Korean court that has jurisdiction over the residence where she resides in order for the divorce to be finalized in Korea. Of course, (more…)

Recently many foreigners asked me if it is true that Korean government banned adoptions by foreign adopters.  I think this rumor came out after the chief of Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs had said “it should be sough after revitalization of domestic adoption”.  The background of the chief’s comment was a recent homicide case where a U. S. adopters in Iowa killed 4 Korean adoptees.  The adoption agencies misunderstood it as Korean government would ban foreign adoption.  But constraining foreign adoptions and revitalizing domestic adoptions has been a long-time governmental policy ever since late 90’s-it is nothing new.

There has been no official changes on current regulations on foreign adoptions by Korean government.  Moreover, the private adoption, not an institutional adoption, is regulated by the Civil Act and it has nothing to do with (more…)

According to the Korean Civil Act, a child shall succeed his or her mother’s family name, if the father is a foreigner.  By the way, the newly amended Korean Civil Act, which has become effective from January 1, 2008, allows changing family name into another one.  Article 781 (6) of the Act provides as follows:

Where there exists a need to alter the family name of a child for the welfare of the child, it may be changed with the approval thereof which the court grants upon a request of the father or mother or the child itself: Provided, That if the child is a minor and its agent by law may not make such a request, the request may be made by the relative provided for in article 777 or a public prosecutor.

Since the enforcement of the new Civil Act, I’m curious about whether Koren Court would permit the changing Korean family name into foreign family name such as “Smith” or “Brown” and so on.  This is an important legal issue considering many Korean kids are being adopted to foreign parents and many Korean females are being remarried to foreign males with her Korean child.

Finally, Seoul Family Court answered this question.  The court announced today that it had granted a Korean mother’s request to change her daughter’s family name from that of Korean biological father to her newly wedded Filipino husband’s family name.  It was reported that the court took great pains to (more…)

Korean divorce law allows a claim for the division of property to any party of divorcing couples.  It means even the spouse who is responsible for the marriage breakdown has the right, too.

The division of property shall be determined by the parties’ agreement first.  If no agreement is made or if it is impossible to reach an agreement, the Family court shall, upon the petition by the party, determine the amount and method of division.

One thing which should be noted is that the object of the division is only the marital assets which means the “property acquired by the cooperation of both parties during the marriage”.  That means, if the property in issue is acquired by only either party’s effort and funds, then it shall not be (more…)

Recently I got a question from a U.S. citizen living in the states. He has a Korean wife and a son. He’s currently living separately from the wife and son in Korea. The wife refuses his contact with the kid. He tries to get the custody but is not sure about filing a divorce law suit right away.

A child custody has two meanings in Korea.  One is a right to make decisions for the child (so-called parental authority) and the other is right to foster the child.

Getting divorced is not necessarily required to have the “right to foster” under Korean law. He can request the Korean Family Court to designate him as the sole child fosterer, maintaining his marriage.  The court will consider certain factors such as child’s age, past and current life style, occupation and standard of living of both parties and so on in deciding who is going to be a right fosterer in terms of the child’s welfare.

Regarding the expense of bringing up a child, if he is designated as a sole fosterer, the wife shall pay the certain proportion of total expenses of bringing up a child.

In a case where he fails to be designated as a sole fosterer by the court, he shall be entitled to have a visitation right according to Korean law. He can request the court to prevent his wife from interrupting his regular visitation to his (more…)

Previously I had a chance to write a post about a divorce issue when a husband did an act of unchastity.  By the way, what if he did commit an adultery?  It surely not only constitutes a legal ground for divorce in favor of the wife, but also the wife can accuse the husband of adultery to the police.  That is because, according to the Korean Criminal Law, unlikely with the U.S. law, (more…)

Recently we got a question about whether the Korean court permits a divorce filing even when both parties are foreign nationals. The questioner was in a situation where she lived in Korea but the spouse did not. Here is a short and general answer.

In principle, the Korean court accepts international divorce filing only when the defendant has a residence in Korea, even though there could be some excepts to this rule of thumb. The Supreme Court of South Korea, however, held that as an exception to this general rule the court should accept the divorce filing when (i) the plaintiff fails to locate the defendant or (ii) the defendant who has no residence in Korea answers the lawsuit filed in a Korean court.

Thus, if you do not know where the spouse currently lives but still need to get divorced, you can file a divorce lawsuit to a Korean family court. This is quite helpful to the foreign people who had been married to Korean persons but moved back to their home countries with the marriage not working well. Or a foreign person living in Korea whose spouse, who is also a foreigner, left Korea permanently can benefit from this judicial policy of Korean family court. In this regard, our office had represented a Canadian male and successfully got a divorce decree from

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We’ve published a new article on a private adoption under the most recently amended Korean law.  Please check here.

[Disclaimer: Please note that recently there has been an amendment of the laws and regulations regarding the adoption in Korea. The amended laws will be effective soon. That said, the below article has not yet been updated pursuant to the new laws. Therefore, anyone who plans a private adoption in Korea is highly recommended to contact lawyers in advance with respect to the new laws and regulations. 2012/03/22]

Recently our office took an international adoption case in which U.S. parents living in the states want to adopt Korean kids here in South Korea. That was a private adoption case. After completing the adoption successfully, I wrote a short article on private adoption under Korean law to be published in a foreign magazine. I hope this to be of help to anyone interested in Korean adoption.

[Comments in Korean: 아래 글은 외국인이 한국에 거주하는 한국 아동을 입양하는 것에 관한 글입니다. 주지하다시피 우리나라 법상 입양은 원칙적으로 민법에 의하는 것으로 되어 있고, 예외적으로 시설(고아원 등)에서 보호되고 있는 아동(요보호아동)의 입양에 대하여는 “입양촉진및절차에관한특례법”이 적용되고 있습니다. 아래 글은 이 중 민법에 의한 입양(즉, 사적입양. 특례법에 다른 요보호아동의 입양은 ‘시설입양’이라고 하겠음)에 대한 것입니다. 민법은 양부모의 요건을 “한국인”으로 한정하고 있지 않고, 외국인에게도 동일하게 적용됩니다. 즉, 요보호아동이 아니라면 민법에 의한 해외 입양이 가능하다는 것이지요. 아래 글은 저희 사무소에서 한국인 부모가 사적입양방식으로 아이를 미국으로 입양시킨 사례에 바탕을 두었습니다. 아무쪼록 아래 글이 해외입양을 생각하는 아이 엄마, 아빠들과 입양을 간절히 원하는 외국인 부모들에게 유익한 정보가 되기를 기원해 봅니다(2008년 2월)] 

Private Adoption under Korean Law: Overview

There are two kinds of adoptions available under Korean law: an orphanage adoption (or institutional adoption) and a private adoption. The orphanage adoption process is better known to many foreign citizens who want to adopt Korean children. It is literally adopting an orphan accommodated in public assistance facilities or any authorized adoption organization. The Act on Special Cases Concerning the Promotion and Procedures of Adoption (the “ASCCPPA”) regulates the orphanage adoption in Korea. The ASCCPPA, however, requires some strict criteria for being adoptive parents, and this often hinders many foreigners from adopting Korean children. In such a case, the private adoption should seriously be considered. The private adoption is basically adopting non-orphan child in Korea under the Civil Act of Korea. In this article, authors will briefly discuss the private adoption procedure and requirements under the Civil Act of Korea. It should be noted that this article will not discuss with the further U.S. immigration requirements that must be undertaken to obtain relevant visa for the adopted child.

Under the Civil Act, any person can adopt a child by: (a) entering into an adoption agreement with the child and his parents; and (b) reporting the adoption to the relevant public office. If the child to be adopted is under fifteen years of age, his or her parents must assent to the adoption on his or her behalf.

This same requirement applies to any foreigner who wants to adopt a Korean child regardless of his or her nationality and whether he or she is living in Korea. Furthermore, the eligibility requirements under the Civil Act are less strict than those of orphanage adoption. The adoptive person is just required to be over 20 years of age and older than the child to be adopted. Also, single mother or father can adopt a child. (more…)