Gov't to Let Kids Take Mother's or Father's Surname

  • By Pyo Tae-jun

    May 11, 2020 13:05

    A Justice Ministry committee has recommended scrapping a law that automatically gives children their father's surname in a country where married couples keep their respective birth names. The aim is to remove another vestige of patriarchy in the family law.

    The committee made the recommendation on May 8. "We need to completely revise Article 781 of the civil law to repeal the paternal surname system and allow parents to choose a surname for their children in the spirit of an equal marriage relationship," it said.

    The law was enacted in 1958.

    Much of the patriarchal system was abolished when the family registration system listing the father as the head of the household was scrapped in 2005, and a proviso was added allowing parents to choose their children's surname in advance.

    But feminists have been saying that did not go far enough. Currently, parents must inform a district office at the time of their marriage, rather than at the child's birth registration, if they want to give their children the mother's surname.

    Yoon Jin-soo of Seoul National University School of Law said, "Most Western countries have already abolished the automatic paternal surname system in their civil law and are using it only when custom takes precedence." 

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