Northern kids win paternity suit

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Northern kids win paternity suit


Four North Koreans won a paternity lawsuit that will enable them to inherit part of the estate of their biological South Korean father, from whom they were separated during the 1950-53 Korean War.

The South’s Supreme Court said yesterday that last week it upheld the ruling of a lower court saying it recognized the four North Koreans were biological children of a South Korean man who died in 1987 based on a DNA test.

The court said the North Koreans have the right to inherit part of the estate of their biological father, who allegedly left behind about 10 billion won ($8.9 million). It was the first time North Koreans won a paternity suit that would enable them to inherit part of the fortunes of a South Korean parent.

The father, surnamed Yun, was married in Sunchon County, North Korea, and lived with six children and his North Korean wife. He fled to the South during the Korean War with his eldest daughter.

Yun remarried a South Korean woman in 1959 and had four more children. A former doctor in North Korea, Yun ended up running his own private hospital in the South. He died in 1987.

According to his second batch of children, Yun always said he wanted to find his five children in the North and have them inherit part of his fortune.

In 2008, the eldest daughter decided to find her North Korean siblings. She was not satisfied with her inheritance from her father because of conflicts with her half-siblings in the South.

She asked a U.S. missionary who frequently visited North Korea to find her siblings.

The missionary, who reportedly had connections with North Korean authorities, found four living siblings - one had died. He informed them of the intention of their biological father to bequeath some of his fortune to them.

The eldest daughter filed the suit on behalf of her siblings based on the South’s Civil Act, Article No. 865, which says, “If a biological parent dies, the children can file a paternity suit within two years since their notification of the death.”

The five North Korean children, including the eldest daughter, gave hair and fingernails for a DNA test.

The lower court recognized that they were biological children of the doctor.

At the trial, the prosecutor said the eldest daughter had no legal right to represent her North Korean siblings. The prosecutor also raised suspicions that the Northern children might have been pressured by North Korean authorities to get the money for the impoverished regime.

But the Supreme Court dismissed those claims, saying the eldest daughter could represent her Northern siblings since the North Koreans submitted a handwritten power of attorney for her.

The court said that although the children might have asked for some help from North Korean officials, they had the right to sue as separated offspring.

At the first and the second trials, the lower courts recognized that a South Korean court has the right to rule on a lawsuit filed by North Koreans based on the Constitution’s Article No. 3, which says the territory of the Republic of Korea covers the entire Korean Peninsula and some nearby islands.

Separate from the paternity suit, the North Koreans also filed an inheritance lawsuit against their South Korean stepmother and four half-siblings.

In 2011, the Seoul Central District Court ruled in favor of the North Koreans, calling for the Southern family to give them part of the father’s real estate and other assets without revealing the amount.


BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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