Defectors given right to divorce

Joong Ang Daily

In a landmark ruling, a court in Seoul yesterday cleared the way for North Korean defectors who left spouses in their communist homeland to remarry in the South.

The Seoul Family Court accepted requests by 13 defectors to divorce their spouses in North Korea.

Married North Korean defectors have so far been legally barred from remarrying in South Korea because they are already married in the North.

Under a new law on the protection of North Korea defectors revised in January, people who have obtained South Korean citizenship after defection now can file for divorce “if it is unclear whether their spouse lives in the South.”

The test case is the first of 429 lawsuits that have been lodged with the same court on the issue since 2003.

Judge Lee Heon-yeong said North Koreans have a legitimate reason for being unable to continue marriages formed in North Korea, since the current inter-Korean division is unlikely to change in the near future.

The ruling is expected to speed up the process and to increase the number of similar applications.

The number of divorce suits has grown since March, 2003 as the defectors were required to report the name of their spouse for census registration.


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