Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The ABC of International Divorce in Korea

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A man from Southeast Asia who has worked hard in Korea filed a police report when his wife was drunk and intimidated him with a knife last year. He married a Korean woman several years ago and he has suffered from her abusive words and physical threats. He has finally decided to divorce with his wife.

As the proportion of international marriages has steadily increased in Korea since 2000’s (the percentage of international marriages in Korea accounted for 8% in 2017), an international divorce is not unusual any more. I have had quite a few opportunities to consult expats who are maltreated by their spouses in Korea. I found that divorce was not an option to easily take for them for fear that they cannot renew F6 visa (marriage immigration visa) and should leave Korea. Divorce shall be the last resort for any couple, but it is too bad that it is impossible to have a chance for better life just because they are strangers in Korea. It might be a little complicated to divorce in Korea if a spouse or both is/are foreigner(s). I’d discuss the issues involved with international divorce in Korea.

First of all, it is necessary to check jurisdiction as international couples are to file for divorce to Korean family court. Based on the first paragraph of the Article 2 of Act on Private International Law, the party or the issues of the disputes shall be substantively related with Korea in order for Korean court to have jurisdiction. If a spouse is Korea or the couple’s habitual residence is Korea or most the property to be divided is in Korea, the substantive relation with Korea will be acknowledged. Governing law is also an important issue and governing law shall be Korean law in case a spouse is Korean.

If he or she who came to Korea for the purpose of studying or working marries a Korean, a foreigner will change his or her visa into F6 visa (marriage immigration visa). Expats having F6 visa tend to be afraid of leaving Korea when they divorce with Korean spouses. Of course, the basic requirement for renewing F6 visa is continuing marriage. However, even if they divorce, it is possible for F6 visa holders to renew their visa and stay in Korea by proving that their spouses have causes for divorce through the proceedings. In order to clarify that the other party has causes for divorce, it would be needed to receive alimony for the damages including physical and mental stress. In case expats who divorced submit the documents or materials such as the court decision stating that their spouse have causes for divorce, they may extend their visas to six months or one year and depending on their individual situations, and additional extension will be possible. In addition, if they shall raise their children in Korea, expats may stay in Korea through clarifying their situations.

If you have any further inquiries, please send me an email (yhwang618@gmail.com). My office is located near Seoul District Court and Gyodae station in Seoul.
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