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Cabinet approves bill on N. Koreans' right to inherit assets in S. Korea

All Headlines 11:46 August 30, 2011

SEOUL, Aug. 30 (Yonhap) -- The Cabinet on Tuesday approved a bill that would protect North Korean residents' rights to inherit assets from their families living in South Korea but also strictly limit the transfer of those assets out of the South, government officials said.

The government-proposed special bill on family relationships and inheritance between residents of the two Koreas will become law after obtaining parliamentary approval.

The move followed an unprecedented case last month involving four North Korean siblings who successfully claimed part of their late South Korean father's multi-million dollar estate. A local court determined during mediation that their South Korean half-brothers and sisters must share the inheritance with their siblings from the North. More North Koreans are expected to follow suit.

The bill also requires North Korean inheritors to name a local manager for the assets within three months of inheritance and report changes in the property to the South Korean government.

The inheritors must get approval from the government if they want to take any inherited assets out of the country.

The strict restriction on the overseas transfers of the assets is aimed to ease mounting concerns that North Korean authorities could take advantage of the inheritance system, according to the Seoul government.

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

In addition, the bill included a provision recognizing double marriage by North Koreans who defected to the South after the inter-Korean division without divorcing their spouses in the North. Double marriage is otherwise banned under the South's civil law.

Also approved during the Cabinet meeting was a partial revision to the civil law requiring those wanting to adopt a child or severing family ties with their adopted child to get prior approval or a decision from a local family court.

Currently, adoption or ending adoption is possible only with reports to city mayors or chiefs of smaller administrative units. The system has been under criticism for exposing some adopted children to ill-treatment and sexual assault.


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