Article South Korea: Kopino Family Wins Paternity Suit for First Time

(June 26, 2014) The Seoul Family Court decided in June 2014, in a landmark filiation case, that the plaintiffs, two Kopino boys, were the children of a Korean man. “Kopino” is a word that describes a person of mixed Korean and Filipino ethnicity. There are no official statistics on how many children of Korean heritage have been born in the Philippines. One advocacy group estimates that there are 30,000. (Jason Strother, Manila Shelter Is Host to ‘Kopinos,’ WALL STREET JOURNAL (May 26, 2014).)

Most Kopinos live in financial difficulty, isolated from the rest of society. (Lee Woo-young, Helping Kopino Kids Fight Poverty, Prejudice, KOREA HERALD (Aug. 14, 2011).) Formerly, most members of the Kopino community thought that the obstacles to obtaining confirmation of the Kopino children’s affiliation with Korean fathers in courts in Korea were insurmountable. (Cathy Rose A. Garcia & Jasmine Lee, Korean Lawmakers Vow to Help Kopino Kids, ABS-CBN NEWS (Dec. 21, 2012).)

The father in the case at hand lived in the Philippines for years without being legally married to a Filipina woman who gave birth to the two boys. He suddenly went back to Korea about ten years ago, after which he stopped contacting the woman. (Jerry M. Kim, A Kopino Family Wins a Landmark Paternity Lawsuit in Korea, KOREA BIZWIRE (June 23, 2014).)

Finding the Korean fathers is made difficult by their closing off communication; the children often do not have detailed information about their fathers. In this case, the mother came to Korea with her two sons with only the Korean man’s name and photo in hand. The mother ended up receiving support from the Emergency Support Center for Migrant Women in Korea. (Id.)

The Center obtained photos of a few hundred men who had the same name as the father’s. The lawyers affiliated with the Center and the mother were able to find the father and filed to establish the affiliation in December 2012. (An Jung-hyung, Kanpi konketsuji “kopino,” kankoku no saibansho de hatsu no ninchi hanketsu [Korean-Filipino Mixed Children “Kopino,” Affiliation Affirmed by a Korean Court for the First Time], CHOSUNILBO (June 23, 2014); see Civil Act, Act No. 471, Feb. 22, 1958, amended by Act No. 11728, Apr. 5, 2013, art. 863, translated in Korea Legislation Research Institute (KLRI) online database.) The Court ordered a DNA paternity test, and the paternity was confirmed. (Id.)

After the affiliation was established, the two Kopino boys can seek to obtain financial support from the father. (Civil Act, arts. 837 & 864-2.) They cannot obtain Korean nationality because the Nationality Act requires legal affiliation with a parent who has Korean nationality at the time of birth. (Nationality Act, Act No. 16, Dec. 20, 1948, amended by Act No. 10275, May 4, 2010, art. 2, ¶1, item 1, translated in KLRI’s online database.) Some Korean newspapers call for measures to make it easier for Kopinos to get visas to work and live in Korea, or get employment at Korean companies operating in the Philippines. (Editorial: Responsibility for Kopinos, KOREA HERALD (June 24, 2014).)

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South Korea: Kopino Family Wins Paternity Suit for First Time
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