Republic of Korea: Whether it is possible for a woman applicant to file for divorce in South Korea if the husband refuses to appear with the applicant or if the husband refuses to consent to the divorce
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||27 November 2001|
|Citation / Document Symbol||KOR38159.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Republic of Korea: Whether it is possible for a woman applicant to file for divorce in South Korea if the husband refuses to appear with the applicant or if the husband refuses to consent to the divorce, 27 November 2001, KOR38159.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df4be5823.html [accessed 20 June 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
A 7 August 2001 article reported that, in an 18.3 per cent increase from 10 years before, approximately 62.1 per cent of divorce suits in 2000 were filed by women (Yonhap).
A representative at the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, while stating that it is possible for either the husband or the wife to file for divorce, was unaware of whether it is possible for a woman applicant to file for divorce if the husband refuses to appear with the applicant or if the husband refuses to consent to the divorce (26 Nov. 2001).
A 28 January 1999 article published in the Korea Herald reported that when her husband refused to grant her a divorce, a 76-year-old woman took legal steps of her own in order to end her 52-year marriage. Reportedly, at her first trial in 1997, the judges granted her a divorce (ibid.). However, an appellate court later dismissed her case and ordered her to remain married, stating that, while it fully acknowledged the woman was mistreated by her husband, it was more proper for her to remain and care for her husband who was suffering from senile dementia (ibid.). The ruling stated that "fifty two years ago, patriarchal authority was stronger than now and their marital vows were made at that time" (ibid.). The woman was reported to have made a final appeal to the Supreme Court on 18 January 1999 (ibid.).
The woman's lawyer was quoted as stating that, given the conservative nature of the Korean judiciary, the "rulings are hardly surprising" and that "if a younger woman sued for divorce, chances are stronger that she might have won the case" (ibid.).
In what appears to be the same divorce case, a subsequent article in the Korea Times reported that the Seoul High Court had overturned the ruling of a lower court and allowed an elderly woman to divorce her husband (25 Aug. 1999).
Reportedly, the decision of the appellate court was the second time a Korean court had rejected the divorce of an elderly couple (The Korea Herald 5 Jan. 1999). In a similar case in 1998 a Seoul Family Court rejected the divorce suit of a 70-year-old woman, ruling that, considering their ages and the long length of their marriage, the couple would be better off remaining married until they died (ibid.).
No further reference to whether it is possible for a woman applicant to file for divorce in South Korea if the husband refuses to appear with the applicant or if the husband refuses to consent to the divorce could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Embassy of the Republic of Korea. Ottawa 26 November 2001. Telephone interview.
The Korea Herald [Seoul]. 28 January 1999. Byum Eun-mi. "More Elderly Women Demanding Divorces: Revised Family Law Helps Women Leave Their Husbands in the Twilight Years." (NEXIS)
_____. 5 January 1999. "Court Dismisses Suit by Woman Trying to End 53 Years of Marriage." (NEXIS)
The Korea Times [Seoul]. 25 August 1999. "Woman in 70s Wins Divorce Suit." (NEXIS)
Yonhap [Seoul, in English]. 7 August 2001. "Average of 119 Couples Per Day Filed for Divorce Last Year." (FBIS-EAS-2001-0807 7 Aug. 2001)
Additional Sources Consulted
Resource Centre. Country File
Women's International Network News
Unsuccessful attempts to contact one academic source
Unsuccessful attempt to contact a Korean family law professor
Internet sites including:
Commission on the Status of Women
International Women's Rights Action Watch
UN Division for the Advancement of Women
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Women's Human Rights Network
Women's Human Rights Resources
World News Connection