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Children on the hook to provide parental support

Sept 30,2019
Thirty-four-year-old Kim Mi-jeong, who is using a pseudonym, got married last year. But after less than a year of marriage, she began to drift from her husband.

It started when her father, who has been without work for about 20 years, demanded money from Kim to support himself. He said he had no way to support himself financially because of his employment status and threatened to sue his daughter if she didn’t start providing for him on a monthly basis. It was after Kim’s husband found out about the situation that their relationship began to sour.

“I’ve never received any financial support from my father. I don’t want to respond to his demand,” Kim said. “He left me, how come I can’t do that?”

However, unfortunately for Kim, according to Korean law, she does bear responsibility for her father financially.

Chapter 7 of Korea’s Civil Act states, “Lineal blood relatives and their spouses shall be under a duty to furnish support to each other.” It also says that “A person under duty to furnish support shall perform his/her duty only where the person entitled to receive support is unable to support himself or herself by his or her own financial resources or labor.”

Experts say that in Kim’s case, she could have to give a minimum of 100,000 won ($85) a month to her father, based on her and her father’s circumstances.

While in principle, a child’s duty to furnish support still remains even if the parents were divested of all parental rights, it is probable that the child’s duty in such cases would be relieved by the court, but they would still be undoubtedly be burdened by the lawsuit process.

“I saw some fathers, who had assaulted their children in the past, contact them to demand financial support,” Park Byung-kyu, a lawyer from the law firm Elaw, said. “Offspring feel that it’s unfair that they have to support the parents that they hate to even see.”

Many people argue that the related laws need to be supplemented. In the past, people thought that it was obvious for children to take care of their parents. However, in recent years, there has been growing recognition that the country is more responsible for elderly poverty as more couples are getting divorced and the elderly are growing poorer.

“It is wrong to force offspring to have duty for their parents who are not truly qualified,” lawyer Park said. “It has been difficult to adjust the duty with legislation, but now is the time to make that happen through social discussion and consensus.”

According to data from the Supreme Court, the number of lawsuits received requesting support fees totaled 252 last year. That figure has been steadily increasing since 2009 when 195 lawsuits were received. So far this year, the Seoul Family Court has received a total of 41 lawsuits requesting support fees.

BY LEE HOO-YEON, CHEA SARAH [chea.sarah@joongang.co.kr]