Low Birthrate Changes Legal Landscape

  • By Yang Eun-kyoung

    June 23, 2018 08:09

    More and more divorce lawyers are advertising their services as acrimonious separations dwindle amid an overall slump in marriages.

    Until a few years ago their business was booming. But while there were 11,522 divorce suits filed to the Seoul Family Court in 2008, the number dropped 35 percent in 2017 to 7,457. The number of amicable divorces also plunged 43 percent from 7,449 in 2008 to 4,215 in 2017. A court official said, "At this rate, we may have to get rid of one collegiate court out of three within two to three years."

    The trend reflects a decrease in the number of marriages rather than blossoming marital harmony. According to the Statistics Korea, the number of marriages decreased from 327,700 in 2008 to 264,500 in 2017.

    "The low birthrate and a drop in the number of marriages have had a big impact on the number of divorce cases," said one divorce lawyer.

    The number of juvenile offenders is also decreasing for the same reason. Minor crimes by young offenders are usually dealt with in family court, and these offenders are often put on probation or sent to youth detention centers.

    The number of juvenile offenders' cases filed at the Seoul Family Court fell from 8,757 in 2008 to 5,752 in 2017. Over the same period, the number of newborn babies dropped from 460,000 to 350,000.

    But the number of applications for adult guardianship is on the rise as Korea's population ages. Courts appoint a legal guardian for adults who have some form of incapacity, and this is often done on behalf of elderly patients with dementia.

    When guardianship was first introduced in 2014, 768 applications were lodged, but that figure soared to 1,690 in 2017. Lawyers are shifting their focus to this newly emerging market. The Korean Bar Association offered a training program on adult guardianship for its members last month, and within an hour of opening all 200 spaces were filled.

    "The low birthrate and the aging population are changing the legal landscape as well," the court official said.

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