Does Korea have Common Law Marriage?: Korean Common Law Marriage (De Facto Marriage) Basics

While the concept of a Korean Common Law Marriage (since Korea has no concept of a Common Law) does not exist, Korea has a similar law than the laws, in the States, often referred to as Common Law marriage.  FYI – few U.S. States recognize common law marriage.

Korean Common Law Marriage

In Korea, the concept of Common Law Marriage is referred to as De Facto Marriage.  In Korea, all “legal marriages” are marriages that are registered at the local town office or recognized via marriage

abroad (comity).  The De Facto Marriage is a limited exception to this “legal marriage” concept.  The following is a basic explanation of the major relevant aspects of Korea’s De Facto Marriage Law.

Korean Common Law Marriage (De Facto Marriage in Korea) Situations
A De Facto Marriage is recognized by a Korean Court, typically, in three different basic situations:

  1. The couple has publicized, announced or otherwise outwardly showed their relationship is akin to a marriage;
  2. The couple had a formal public wedding ceremony; or
  3. The couple lived together as a married couple.

Korean De facto Marriage Test
To establish a De Facto Marriage the couples must:
1.  Both intend for the relationship to be akin to marriage; and
2.  Live as a married couple.

The aforementioned situations, typically satisfy a court.  In recent years, the amount of time of the De Facto marriage is irrelevant if intent is established and the couple lived together as a married couple. Unlike, in many States, the time period one lives with another spouse is, often, irrelevant.

De Facto Marriage “Divorce”  
The recognition of a court that a De Facto Marriage exits grants to the spouses of this marriage protections similar to that of legally married couples – with one major caveat.  A spouse in a De Facto Marriage may not claim division of property after the death of the other spouse.  However, prior to death the spouse may file a lawsuit for a division of family assets and claim damages for pain and suffering (consolation money) caused by the other spouse in the de facto marriage.

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