| Male-Dominated Family Registry System to Change In 2008|
By Seo Dong-shin
A revised law that allows sons and daughters to inherit the family name of their mother or their father will take effect in 2008.
A revision of the Civil Law, passed by a parliamentary committee Monday, preludes a major change in the traditional family concept of Koreans as it abolishes ``hojuje,'' or the patriarchal family registry system.
Under the revised law, children will be able to adopt a family name and ``pongwan,'' or recorded origin of the family, from the mother's side upon the parents' agreement, although it still encourages families to follow the father's side.
If a woman remarries, her children can also follow the family name of the stepfather with the court's approval. A stipulation preventing women remarrying within six months will be also be removed.
Under the current system, all family members are registered under ``hoju,'' which refers to the man that ``heads the family.''
When a woman marries, for example, her name is removed from her father's ``hojok,'' or family registration record and is transferred to that of her husband.
Women's rights organizations and civic activists have called for the abolition of the male-dominant registry system for the past 50 years.
But the conservative forces of Confucianism-based Korean society have protested the move, arguing it could result in the dissolution of the traditional family.
The revision bill faced renewed resistance from some members of the conservative Grand National Party (GNP) at the Assembly's Legislation and Judiciary Committee Monday night, resulting in a 12-hour delay in its passing.
Eleven out of 15 committee members voted for the bill, with three GNP lawmakers voting against and one GNP member abstaining. All ruling Uri Party members and one Democratic Labor Party lawmaker supported the bill.
Civic activists and female lawmakers, such as Sohn Bong-suk of the Millennium Democratic Party, who had protested the delay, attended the parliamentary panel session. At the moment the committee announced the passage of the bill, the group responses with a cheer.
The bill is likely to be approved at a plenary Assembly session scheduled for today as it enjoys support from a majority of the ruling and opposition party lawmakers.
According to the bill, the definition of a ``family'' is also to be expanded to include spouses of one's direct blood relations such as parents and grandparents, children and grandchildren. In addition, the direct blood relations of one's spouse will be included along with the spouse's siblings who share living expenses. Traditional family members remain unchanged.
The government had intended not to include a definition of the family in the revision bill, but gave way to criticism that such a move might result in the end of the traditional family.