Ask Korea Law

Published by Chung & Partners Since 2008


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[Q&A] Fake ID and Citizenship Revocation

Q) Recently, the Ministry of Justice(MOJ) had revoked my Korean citizenship.  I came from Pakistan, lived in Korea for 12 years without any problem and duly acquired my Korean citizenship 3 years ago.  The MOJ’s decision was made on the ground that my passport had been forged.  But that is not true.  It has a different name on it but it was a newly issued one which can be authorized by the local government.  Can I get my Korean citizenship back?

A) First of all, the MOJ’ decision to revoke your Korean citizenship is under the judicial review of Korean Administrative court.  There are cases where the court overturned the MOJ’s citizenship revocation on the ground that either (i) there is no legal ground for revocation and/or (ii) the decision causes too much personal harm rather than serving a public cause.

There are many fake/newly-issued foreign passport cases in Korea.  Some courts held that the revocation made against a person who had submitted a fake/newly-issued foreign passport while Continue reading


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Do I Really Have to Renounce Inheritance in Korea as Other Korean Heirs Claim?

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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[Q&A] Leaking Employer’s Confidential Information and Employment Termination : What Is Confidential Information under Korean Law?

“Hello, I am a U.S. citizen working for a Korean listed company.  Recently my company sent me a dismissal notice saying I had breached the employment contract by leaking their confidential information.  Informations at issue are a set of sale/purchase statements of the company.  I downloaded those informations from the company’s server to my personal email account.  But, there has been no warning mark of confidentiality.  My other colleagues have a free access too, and the information sometimes was provided to our suppliers.  Did I really breach the confidentiality of my Korean employer?”  

Leaking employer’s confidential information could result in a termination of the employment contract.  The legal issue, however, still remain whether or not the information can be regarded as a confidential information.

Most employers in Korea have their own rules of employment which state what is a confidential information.  And even an employment contract could list a set of confidential informations which the employee should not disclose to 3rd parties.  But, defining what is a confidential information is a matter of law and, therefore, the Korean court does not always follow the definition which an employer had been set in their internal documents.

The Korean court has well-established precedent that the confidential information should be Continue reading


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[Q&A] Can I Enforce My Washington State Child Support Ruling in Korea?

(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 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 to the Korean court. 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 Continue reading


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[Q&A: Family Law] What Legal Rights Do I Have under the De Facto Marriage in Korea? – Introduction to How the Korean Law Treats De Facto Marriage and Its Resolution

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 Continue reading


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[Q&A: Immigration Law] Can I Appeal the Deportation Order Issued by the Korean Immigration Office?

Q) My friend was convicted of a crime and sentenced to 1-year probation.  It was an accident which happened while he was drunken.  After then, the immigration officer ordered him to leave South Korea within a month on the ground of the conviction.  He is having an E-2 visa and was married to a Korean national.  He has a very good reputation around him and planned to live in Korea permanently.  I think it is too harsh for him to leave Korea.  Does he have any chance to appeal?

A) At the outset, the deportation order or an exit order from the immigration office is subject to the review of the court.  It can be overturned by the court based on the theory of misuse of discretionary power.  The court has ruled that the decision of the immigration office to deport a foreigner should not only meet the requirements provided by the relevant statute, but also it should not do more harm to the foreigner’s individual life than benefits to the public, otherwise it constitutes an abuse of discretion and therefore shall be revoked by the court’s order.

For example, the court has ruled that the deportation order against a HIV positive personnel is an abuse of discretionary power considering  the person’s long-time living base established in Korea.  Also a deportation order against the person with one and half year jail time sentence with 3 year suspension for the violation of (then-existing) Anticommunist Act was struck down, as the court found it an abuse of discretionary power after finding his solid living base in Korea supported by other character evidences is a legitimate interest which should be preserved by allowing his legal residency in Korea.  Also there have been many successful appeal cases Continue reading


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[Q&A: Family Law] How Can I Divorce If I Don't Know Whereabouts of My Spouse in Korea – Getting a Korean Ex-Parte Divorce Decree and Recognition of Foreign Divorce Decree in Korea

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.   Continue reading


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[Q&A: Family Law] Is Canadian or U.S. Divorce Decree Including Alimony and Child Support Order Enforceable in Korea?

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, Korean court recognizes foreign court’s divorce ruling so far as (i) the foreign court has a 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 held that South Korea and Ontario have a mutual guaranty.  What is more important here is that the Supreme Court recognized the foreign court’s alimony order.  Under Korean divorce law, there is no legal concept of alimony in 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, Continue reading


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