SEOUL, Oct. 26 (Korea Bizwire) — Are birth parents entitled to the wealth left behind by their deceased children even if they had long lived apart?
Under the current inheritance law, the answer is yes, though some have denounced such parents as cold-hearted and unethical.
The legal loopholes angered the public last year, when Goo Ha-ra, a former member of popular girl group KARA, took her own life in November and her birth mother suddenly showed up for the first time in 20 years to claim half of the late singer’s wealth.
At that time, more than 100,000 people signed a petition to ask the National Assembly to revise the inheritance law to block such shameless parents from inheriting their forsaken children’s properties.
While parliament has yet to follow up on the petition, a second incident, similar to Goo’s case, recently occurred in Korean society.
According to local legal circles on Monday, a 55-year-old woman came forward to claim all financial assets of her 29-year-old biological daughter who died of stomach cancer in February, though they had lived apart for the past 28 years.
The cold-hearted woman, whose identity was withheld, drew fire for abruptly showing up after learning of her daughter’s death and eventually receiving 150 million won (US$133,000), including death insurance money, company severance pay and housing rental deposit.
Unsatisfied with the inheritance, the woman even filed a lawsuit claiming that the late daughter’s stepmother and half-brother used her debit card to pay for her hospital and funeral expenses.
In the lawsuit filed with the Seoul Eastern District Court in April, the woman demanded the return of 55 million won in “unfair gains” from the bereaved family.
It has been known that the birth mother and the deceased daughter had lived together only one year after the latter’s birth and had not contacted each other at all for the following 28 years.
Under the standing Civil Code, the woman is the sole person capable of inheriting the wealth left behind by her daughter, because her birth father died several years ago.
To the astonishment of the bereaved family, the women started litigation saying the 55 million won withdrawn from her late daughter’s bank account for hospital and funeral bills belongs to her.
The court held two rounds of hearings before ordering the woman to return about 10 million won to the bereaved family.
According to the bereaved family, the daughter expressed concern while in hospital that her wealth would be inherited by her birth mother after her death and voiced a wish that her financial assets be given to her stepmother and half-brother.