On 27 April 2007, the Law on the Registration of Family Relationships was adopted in South Korea, which is to replace the Family Registry Law as a result of the abolition of the family head (hoju) system. The new law will come into force on 1 January 2008.
The introduction of the new registration system became necessary as a result of the amendments to the Civil Code in March 2005, which resulted in the abolition of the family head system as had been demanded by women's and other civil society organizations over the years. After more than two years of deliberations, the Law on the Registration of Family Relationships was adopted to introduce the individual-based registration system. On 4 June 2007, the Supreme Court of Korea announced the details of the new system[Korean].
According to the Supreme Court, the spirit of the new law is to materialize the constitutional philosophies of individual dignity and gender equality. The new law will result in the major modifications of the Korean "family registry" system, transforming it into the individual registration system from the previous one based on the household. The notion of "the permanent domicile", which is the address registered in the family registry represented by the head of the household, will be abolished; the individual will be free to choose "the base address for registration".
In South Korea, where the married couple keeps their respective family names, the child has been to bear the father's family name. After the entry into force of the new law, the child may bear the mother's family name if the couple had agreed as such when they entered into marriage. The child is also able to change his/her family name in case of divorce or remarriage of the parent. The new law also introduces the system of special adoption and the provisions strengthening the protection of personal information.
Source: Press release issued by the Supreme Court of Korea [Korean]
· Maeil Business Newspaper, 4 June 2007 [Korean]
· South Korea: New Civil Code Adopted, Coming into Force in January 2008, Leading to Abolition of the Family Head System (Hurights Osaka News in Brief, March 2005) [Japanese]