Divorce Trial the Most Difficult Issue for the NK Defectors

[imText1]It has been proved that the North Korean defectors are having much difficulty in the legal issues such as divorce or family register revision in South Korea.

According to the Korean Bar Association’s early year report made of the result from the free legal consultation for the defectors, among the total 43 consultations, 18 were family problems. Then it was 14 civil affairs, 5 criminal cases, and 6 others.

Last year, among the 120 legal consultations, family problems consisted a big part also. There were 20 divorce lawsuits, 8 divorce lawsuits with South Korean spouses, 7 family register revision cases, which included consultations on child fostering expense, consolation money, and cancellation of registration of marriage.

The secondly most frequent consultation was about the cost of brokers (more than 12 cases). Other consultations were about loan, car accident, guarantee, claim for wage, application for provisional seizure, which were both in the categories of civil affairs and criminal cases as well as administrative problem.

There has not been much change in the type of legal problems since the legal consultation assistance program started in 2003, and it seems as though the North Korean defectors are most suffering from family problems after resettling in South Korea.

Especially upon their entrance to South Korea, when they confess that they have been married in the initial interrogation by the government, it is recorded in the family registry, which becomes a big obstacle for the defectors to get remarried in South Korea.

165 Divorce Lawsuits, Not Proceeded

Kang Ju Myung, (pseudonym, age 31) a defectors woman said, “When I was still in Hanawon (a government education place for the North Korean defectors to ease their resettlement in South Korea, defectors are obliged live in Hanawon for first months after their defection), they asked us to write down family relations, so I wrote down the name of man whom I lived with in North Korea. His name is now recorded on my family registry as my husband.”

Kim Song Hwa (psudonym, age 32), a defector woman who had been married to a Chinese man asked help of the Korean Bar Association. “In my family registry, my ex-husband in North Korea is recorded as my husband, so my current husband whom I got married to during my stay in China cannot be registered as my family neither my daughter who is now four years. old,” said Kim. She said she would like to divorce her husband in North Korea and officially marry the current Chinese husband and bring him and her daughter to South Korea.”

Although this woman demands for divorce with her husband in North Korea, because agreed divorce is impossible in reality, only trial divorce (alone) is possible. However, under the limitation of the law, divorce with the husband residing in North Korea is impossible.

Although in Seoul Family Court of Justice, there have been 163 divorce lawsuits filed until this March, but no case had been processed after the only and the last divorce permitted in February last year.

Because North Koreans are unfamiliar with South Korean legal process of the civil affairs, criminal cases, and administrative affairs, face much difficulty, but most of their cases were solvable through the assistance of the consultant lawyers of the Korean Bar Association. However, legal matters regarding family members remaining in North Korea such as divorce and family registry cannot be verified while the defectors suffer much psychologically, it is imperative that new laws are made regarding this issues.

Meanwhile, various other consultations have been made by defectors, such as reporting mistreatments of the police (who is designated especially to assist the defectors), employment matters, defending of defectors in China and many more.

The lawyers in the Korean Bar Association who have started the consultations in 2003 have branch offices in fourteen cities across the nation and 170 lawyers are actively engaged to assist the defectors.