Thursday, January 20, 2011

Korea Is A Safe Haven...For International Child Abduction. Not Good. (Update 1)

Update 1 is at the End of this Post

Korea Faces More International Child Custody Controversies
The Hague Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is a multilateral treaty, which seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of abduction and retention across international boundaries by providing a procedure to bring about their prompt return. The "Child Abduction Section" provides information about the operation of the Convention and the work of the Hague Conference in monitoring its implementation and promoting international co-operation in the area of child abduction. (Hague Conference on Private International Law, a global inter-governmental organisation.)
This is a list of Hague Abduction Convention Countries.  Conspicuous by its absence?  South Korea.  This is going to be a huge problem for Korea.  First, it is well-known that international marriage is increasing in Korea and abroad.  The reason?  Koreans are migrating to other countries for work and education.  It is inevitable that people meet their spouses through "non-traditional (whatever that means)" methods.  Second, the divorce rate in Korea is rising.   If you put the first and second facts together, then it is mere common sense that suggests that the children of interracial couples, or couples whose home country may be different from one another, will be subject to extreme controversy.

Individual Stories Are Making Headlines, One Case at a Time
Last week, in The New York Daily News, this dramatic story appeared regarding a child hidden in Korea by the father in Korea.  This is not the only story of its kind.  Earlier in the year, a slightly different case was made public, and attracted a great amount of notice. 

Other countries who have not ratified the Hague Abduction Convention have been widely criticized.  The most obvious example:  Japan has also not ratified the Hague Abduction Convention, despite international criticism.   While Korea allegedly recognizes foreign decrees of law, The New York Daily News article strongly suggests otherwise.  The mother had a decree from a U.S. court, but Korean law enforcement officials were of no help to her as she struggled to locate her child in Korea. 

How Korea Handles These Cases Will Be An Important Litmus Test
One of the central ideas of the Seoul Gyopo Guide is that Korea has an outmoded social and legal system, which is not in step with other areas of its rapid development.  There are undoubtedly countless other stories like the two that have been mentioned:  it is a certainty that many more exist, and have not yet received any publicity.  There has been the suggestion that Korea would eventually adopt the Hague Abduction Convention.  However, that has not been the case, yet.  Even if the Hague Convention is adopted in Korea, it is not clear that Korea will enforce the Hague Convention.  Korea has had an exceptionally poor record with respect to following international norms in many areas that interface with the law.  Perhaps only extreme amounts of negative publicity will force Korea to conform to international standards.  Time will tell, but one thing is almost a certainty: the number of cases will inevitably rise, given the social trends within Korea (more divorces), and the great number of Koreans with experience living outside Korea.  How Korea handles this area will serve as another litmus test in determining whether or not Korea is continuing to join the international community.

Update:  The Seoul Gyopo Guide's timing couldn't be better (luckier).  Today, Japan, who also does not recognize the Hague Convention, was formally criticized by France. Korea is much smaller than Japan in size and population.  While no one knows for sure, criticism of Korea similar to the one lodged against Japan can be expected.  That said, Korea has avoided many criticisms in areas where Japan and Korea are similar.  The jury is still out. 


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