Washington International Law Journal


Kay C. Lee


The historic revision of the South Korean Family Law in 1989 abolished many entrenched legal practices based on Confucian ethics that discriminate against women. Among its many provisions, the law provides for an equitable division of marital property upon divorce and ends the tradition of the father's automatic right to child custody, unless waived. However, in a legal system where judges wield unquestioned authority and wide discretion, judicial decisions based on traditional assumptions about women and family continue to frustrate the democratic intent of the revised law. Given the vague laws that give the judiciary broad discretion, real changes are possible only with further protective measures enacted by the legislature. In the interim, judges must critically examine their unquestioned authority as well as personal biases in their legal and social contexts.

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