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N. Korean laws to remain invalid in S. Korean inheritance cases

All Headlines 16:14 August 18, 2011

SEOUL, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) -- The government announced on Thursday that it will revise a planned law to prevent North Korean laws from affecting inheritance suits in the South that involve separated family members from the two Koreas.

The Justice Ministry said it would revoke an earlier legislative plan to recognize North Korean laws and rulings in the South because that recognition can sometimes lead to "unreasonable rulings."

The move comes in anticipation of more North Koreans attempting to claim inheritances after an unprecedented case last month involving four North Korean siblings who successfully claimed part of their late father's multi-million dollar estate. A local court determined during mediation that their South Korean half-brothers and sisters should share the inheritance with their siblings from the North.

The government's original draft of the bill included a plan to have South Korean courts reflect the North's legal judgments when it comes to rulings on family relations and inheritance rights between both countries' people. The plan was based on the assumption that North Korea virtually constitutes a nation.

But the new draft indicates that North Korea cannot be deemed a single independent country. It is also based on the South's judgments that North Korean laws mostly lag behind contemporary international laws and are hard to know as they are rarely released to the outside world.

"Deletion of the clauses (in the latest draft) were made to respond to some criticism that acceptance of North Korean laws and court rulings can sometimes lead to unreasonable rulings here," a ministry official said.

The revision will also require local courts to name local managers of assets granted to North Korean residents in local inheritance cases, the ministry said.

The original plan was to allow North Korean inheritors to directly name a local middleman to assume responsibility since an outflow of South Korean assets to the North is strictly forbidden.

The change was made to ease mounting concerns that North Korean authorities could take advantage of the original system and get inherited assets into the country through brokers, according to the ministry.

South Korea is technically still at war with the North since the Korean War ended with an armistice in 1953, not a peace treaty.


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