[EDITORIALS]End the family head systemThe special committee established by the Ministry of Justice to study family law revisions decided yesterday to abolish the family head system. A draft revision of the civil law will be presented to the National Assembly in September, when the bill is reviewed by a joint task force representing government agencies and concerned civic groups. Since the current Civil Act was enacted in 1960, women’s groups have consistently demanded the abolishment of the system. Finally, it will be presented to the legislature as a government proposal.
We agree in principle that the abolishment of the system is in keeping with the changing times. But we also ask the government to introduce a system to replace it after collecting extensive opinions from all segments of society so that people can accept it with ease.
The current family system retains measures against gender equality such as giving priority to a grandson over an aged mother in succeeding as head of a family. It also creates confusion for the children of a woman who has remarried by obliging them to retain their father’s family name and restraining their mother from exercising her parental power.
The modern Korean family is different from the family of old: Korea has the third highest divorce rate and the lowest birth rate in the world. The traditional extended family where three generations live together is gone. New family forms are on the rise.
If the laws and systems that affect people’s lives do not reflect these changes, inconvenience and trouble for people will only grow. Although the family head system is familiar to us, we have to accommodate a new system if changes have taken place in the family structure.
But the new system should not provide a shock to people’s lives or deviate widely from national sentiment. The family is the core of our value system, and it should not be damaged. The proposed “individual registration system” needs to be supplemented. Since the system is related to traditions and social norms, a national consensus should be reached through hearings and open debate before the bill passes the Assembly.