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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Household head system will be history

It may have been interesting for us anthros and other observers of Korean society and culture that the South Korean law on registering individual people and defining the family membership and movement of people at the time of marriage has so closely followed the traditional notions of what constitutes a family and what happenes to the women at the time of marriage, but for example for a child of a divorced woman at the custody of her mother that has meant being formally registered as a "coresiding person" (tonggôin) instead of as an offspring.
But now the new civil code (minpôp) has been passed in the parliament (Hankyoreh), and that will bring about big changes in how individuals are put in registers. The revised civil law will be put in effect in 2008. I'll summarize the changes from the Hankyoreh piece.

• Household head (hoju 戶主) and household register (hojôk 戶籍) disappear, and each person is registered individually at birth
• Person's birth, marriage, adoption, spouse, children's names and citizen numbers are registered; data on parents will not be registered
• The preservation of ponjôk (本積), one's family of origin, is being negotiated; according to the draft of the Ministry of Justice, the couple could agree on a shared ponjôk, or have each their own.
• The maintenance of chokpo (or jokbo 族譜), genealogy, is up to the lineage s (munjung 問中) and lineage associations
• By definition, children are given the father's family name, but at the time of birth registration, mother's name can be given when the couple wishes so, but it cannot be changed later unless certain criminal cases concerning the father
• In the case of remarriage, children may change to the surname of their mother's new husband after approval from family court
• In legal terms, woman is not transferred to her husband's family (siga 媤家), but the marriage is shown in the registers of the both individuals in a similar way. Children are also registered in both the mother's and the father's registers.
• Divorce is registered only in the person's own register. [This issue is taken up because now the individual's personal register will not reveal this potential source of social stigma and discrimination in the job market and so on.]
• Also in the case of divorce, parenthood will be recognized in the register [so there will be no "coresiding person" relations between mother and child].
• A married man's offspring out of an extramarital relationship: in the hoju system they were registered in the man's household (ka 家) without officially recognizing the mother; now the mother will be registered, and if agreed, the children can be given the mother's surname or be registered as the father's children. In case of disagreement, the matter will be settled in the family court.
• Adoption; a couple with at least a three years' marriage will have their adopted child registered as their "real" child (ch'insaengja 親生子). The info on the adopted child's real mother and father is in a government-operated database. (These details are still being worked out, but seems that people are putting effort to alleviate the problem of domestic adoption with legislation.)

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Comments to note "Household head system will be history" (Comments to posts older than 14 days are moderated)

<Blogger kotaji> said on 2.3.05 : 

Thanks for summarising that Antti. It's a very interesting subject but I haven't had time to read up on it really. I wonder how it compares to the system in Japan? Is Korea now more progressive in this respect?

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