Ask Korea Law

Published by Chung & Partners Since 2008


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(Q&A) My Korean Half Brother Asks Me to Sign Over a Korean Inheritance Document. What Should I do?

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 Continue reading


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Is a Private Adoption Legal in South Korea?

Private Adoption is Legal in South Korea

The answer is yes, a private adoption is legal in South Korea.  There are two types of adoption under Korean legal system.  One is a private adoption and the other one is a foster care adoption.  A private adoption is an adoption which is initiated by a private placement from the birth parent without the involvement of any adoption agency.    The most important distinction of a 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 the totally different legal systems, many people often confuse these two.  Like a foster care adoption must be taken care of by an adoption agency, non-foster care adoption, i.e. a private adoption, Continue reading


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Introduction to the Korean Inheritance Law

When a person is deceased in Korea, the inheritance comes to fruition immediately.  The Korean inheritance law provides who shall become the inheritor and beneficiary of the property of a deceased person, i.e. estate.  This, however, does not always mean the inheritor shall be given all the property of the decedent.  There are separate rules and restrictions of the distribution of the estate in Korea.

The basic rule of the Korean inheritance law is that the property of a deceased person is distributed according to his or her will.  So, a person who is not categorised as a person who can be an inheritor by law can be a beneficiary of the property 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.  The intestate succession rule provides that persons become beneficiaries in the following order:

  1. Direct descendants (children or grandchildren)
  2. Direct ascendants (parents or grandparents)
  3. Siblings
  4. Relative within the 4th degree of collateral consanguinity

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Private Adoption by Non-Koreans in Korea

We 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. Continue reading