Ask Korea Law

Published by Chung & Partners since 2008

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[Q&A: Family Law] When Foreign Couples Divorce and Get Married in Korea

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 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 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 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 Continue reading

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[Q&A: Divorce Law] Does Being Separated for Many Years Itself Make It Easier to Get a Divorce Decree in Korea?

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.  To the contrary, if you’ve maliciously Continue reading


[Q&A] My Spouse Won’t Sign the Divorce Agreement, How Can I Get the Divorce Finalized in Korea?

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 parent 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 which has a jurisdiction over the residence where she resides in order for the divorce to be finalized in Korea. Of course, Continue reading

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There Is No Waiting-Period for Remarriage under Korean Family Law

Recently we got a question regarding the s0-called “waiting-period” of remarriage under Korean family law.  There is no such a thing like “waiting-period” which prohibits a divorced person to remarry within certain period.  Actually there had been a clause of waiting period in Korean Civil Code, but Continue reading

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Korea Banned Foreign Adoption?

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 Continue reading

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Korean Family Court Granted Family Name Changing into Foreign Step-Father’s Family Name

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 Continue reading


Korean President Urges More Protection on Foreign Wives Married to Korean

It is reported that President Lee Myung-bak said the central government should work out programs to better protect the human rights of foreign wives married to Korean men.  It has been a severe social issues that more and more women from countries especially Philippines and Vietnam are getting married to Korean men and increasing incidents Continue reading