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Wednesday, February 18, 2004

(Urban space / family and kin) Intra-familial strife over land ownership

Media Daum has a complex case of landownership dispute between older sister and younger brother in a family of 5 daughters and one son, which goes back to early 70s when the 65 p'yông (215 sq.m) piece of land in question was pretty much worthless. Due to redevelopment the land price has skyrocketed, and that's when the family trouble started.

This case has many central features of the Korean recent history of the last few decades: steep hike of land prices and subsequent riches made by good or lucky investments; emigration (the older sister was a coming-and-going emigrant to the US), potentially disastrous effects of the modern development on the families. (The piece of land is of all places in the very heart of all land price hikes, in Kangnam.)

The oldest sister bought a 215 sq meter piece of land with her severance payment from a bank in 1970, and registered it in her father's name. Due to regulations at the time, the father couldn't get a construction permit on his own, so he prepared documents which made it look like he had sold the land to his second son-in-law (husband of the second daughter), and also had it registered so. The oldest sister emigrated to the US, believing that the piece of land was still her possession.

The father died in 1982; the second daughter told that taking care of the lot was too difficult, and let others know that she wants to get rid of it (ch'ôbunhada). She gave 10 million W to the mother as money from selling the lot, but actually she didn't sell it and kept it as such. Meanwhile the area was being redeveloped, and in 1988 the value had gone up to 310 million W (3억1000만원). Mother thought the land was sold, and bought a small apartment with the money for the oldest daughter.

The oldest daughter returned from US in '88, and learned that the lot was registered under the 2nd daughter's name. He consulted her brother, and they gave 20 million to the 2nd daughter for the money (10 mil W) the mother had been given and for taking care of the lot. Now she was back in possession of the land. Before the went back to the States, she had the lot registered under the brother's name to be taken care of while she was abroad. The brother went and sold the lot for 1.67 billion (16억7000여만원) [1.1 mil €] without telling his oldest sister.

She sued her brother after again returnig to Korea; first she lost the suit because "nominal trust" (?, 명의신탁) could not be acknowledged, but the appeal went to her favor, and in the end the brother had to pay the 1.67 million to his sister. During the appeals, the brother claimed that their mother had given a false testimony over the land ownership and paid therefore fines. But what had actually happened was that the brother had used his sister-in-law (처제) to make a complaint against the mother, who was ordered to pay fines, which were paid by the brother unbeknownst to the mother.

Sounds complex enough, and is made even more complex with the difficult Korean legalese and my insufficient knowledge of English legalese...

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