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Poor Korean Language Skills Not Justification to Deny Parental Custody: Court – The Korea Bizwire

  • Attorney Daniel Albert

This undated file photo shows the Supreme Court in Seoul. (Yonhap)
SEOUL, Oct. 18 (Korea Bizwire)The Supreme Court has overturned two lower court rulings that a foreigner who divorced after marrying a Korean cannot have parental rights and the right to child custody due to a lack of communication skills in Korean language.
In litigation filed by a Vietnamese woman who divorced after marrying a Korean man, the appeals court designated the husband as the person with parental authority and the right to child custody.
On Sunday, however, the highest court overturned the ruling of the appeals court and sent the case back to the lower court.
The couple registered their marriage in September 2015 and gave birth to two children. About one year after a separation due to discord, they filed for divorce.
Despite a lack of Korean proficiency, the Vietnamese woman got a job after the couple separated and raised her daughter without any issues, in part thanks to her mother’s help.
The top court stressed that the designation of custodial parent accompanying the change in the state of child custody should have a clear justification, pointing out that it is abstract and ambiguous to think that a Korean is more suitable to raise a child than a foreigner who is not fluent in Korean.
It noted that given that South Korea has a well-established educational system and sufficiently guarantees the opportunity to learn the Korean language, it’s difficult to view the parent’s Korean language proficiency as having an important meaning in the healthy growth and welfare of children.
The Supreme Court also added that it shouldn’t be underestimated that foreign spouses of Koreans can continue to improve their Korean language skills while having a social life.
J. S. Shin (js_shin@koreabizwire.com)
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