Korean Law Demystified!

Prenups under Korean Law

True or false? “There is such thing as a ‘prenuptial agreement’ under Korean law.”

The statement is true. But, the question itself is a trick question (sorry). Let me tell you why.

In Korea, a “prenuptial agreement” is called “혼전계약.” “혼” means “marriage,” “전” means “before/prior,” and “계약” means “contract/agreement.”

The Korean Civil Act (민법) Article 829 deals with “prenuptial agreements.” (Note: Korea is a “civil law” jurisdiction, meaning we have a “civil code” just like we have a “penal code.” Courts/cases interpret such laws.)

In a nutshell, a Korean “prenuptial agreement” is nothing more than an agreement between the spouses to decide who is able to manage + dispose of each property during marriage. Such an agreement has no legal binding force upon divorce or the death of a spouse. That is how Korean courts view “prenuptial agreements.” A far cry from the Hollywood prenuptial agreements we sometimes hear about in the news.

Plus, even “peculiar property” (i.e., property acquired by a spouse before marriage or solely during marriage) is subject to “property division” (재산분할) upon divorce/dissolution. This is another key aspect that is very different from common-law jurisdiction laws.

Under Korean law, there is relatively less freedom/latitude as to what one can plan to do with one’s own property. The courts like to decide how to distribute such property based on what they see as equitable/fair.

Thanks for reading!

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