[KS] Korean Culture for eldest son to care for parents

Clark W Sorensen sangok at u.washington.edu
Fri Jun 6 16:23:55 EDT 2008

Dear Dr. Cho,

It was indeed true until 1988 that eldest sons in South Korea succeeded to the house headship, received extra property in inheritance, and were expected to take care of their parents in old age. Korea family law has been revised several times since then, however, and the Constitutional Court has made a number of critical decisions, so the issue is no longer cut and dried. Eldest sons can now partition from their birth house if they wish. Other children have a residual obligation to their parents as well, so the legal status of the eldest son at the time of his death would depend upon whether he was still registered on his parents family register, whether he had children of his own, and whether he had any siblings. Because of the complicated nature of all of these considerations I would think hiring a Korean lawyer would be well worth the cost.

Clark W. Sorensen
University of Washington

On Fri, 6 Jun 2008, Injung Cho wrote:

> Dear all,
> I was contacted by a lawyer about the Korean customs of looking after
> their old parents. I am afraid that I don't know much about this issue.
> So I am turning to this discussion forum for help. Any help will be
> greatly appreciated. I've attached her email below.
> Regards,
> InJung Cho
> =========================
> Further to our telephone conversation just now, I confirm that I act for
> a Korean family – husband and wife who are farmers; their younger son
> (completing military service) and daughter.
> Last year their eldest son who had graduated with a degree in
> Hospitality Management was killed in the Kerang Rail accident.
> The family were flown over for the Memorial Service held last year.
> The eldest son was in Australia doing work experience in hotels with the
> hope of obtaining a better position in Korea with his international work
> experience.  The family were assisting him financially during his
> studies and whilst he was here.
> They have advised that as is traditional in Korean society the eldest
> son would care for them in their retirement.
> This matter needs to be supported by independent proof of this cultural
> norm and I am hoping that there are some studies or statistics or other
> information which can be put before the court to establish the great
> financial loss to the parents.
> Any assistance will be greatly appreciated.
> Thank you
> Lesley Simons
> Lesley Simons & Associates
> Barristers & Solicitors & Migration Agents
> MARN: 0210699
> Tel: (613) 9509 2572
> lesleysimons at bigpond.com
> Fax: (613) 9509 2142

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