A suit filed by women against the convention of denying females membership in the congregation of families from the same clanthe so-called daughters rebellionhas succeeded.
On July 21, the Grand Bench of the Supreme Court amended the judicial precedent which recognized only adult men of 20 years or over as members of the jongjung, the group of families with the same surname originating from a single regional clan, and ruled that women should also be recognized as its members.
This decision realizes the ideal of equality between the sexes. Together with a bill that abolishes the head of family system, which was passed in March of this year, the new ruling is expected to have a great impact on the advancement of womens rights in Korea.
The suit, which asked that jongjung membership rights be bestowed on women, was filed by seven married women in the Samaenggong clan of the Yong-in Lee family and the Hyeryeonggong clan of the Cheongsong Shim family against their respective family councils. The Supreme Court overturned the original ruling, which denied the membership request, and returned the case to the Seoul High Court.
Considering the fact that this suit was filed in objection to the actions of the jongjung, which discriminated against women in the management of its estate, it is likely that many similar lawsuits will follow.
In its ruling, the bench stated, The existing convention which restricts membership in the jongjung to adult men has lost its legal grounds due to the changes in our social environment and national consciousness since the 1970s. Neither does it conform to the general juridical order based on the integrity of the individual and equality between the sexes.
The bench made it clear that women should be included in the jongjung by emphasizing, Since the fundamental nature of the group is to guard and pay tribute to the graves of common ancestors and to promote kinship among its members, anyone who shares the same ancestor, surname, and family origin should be granted membership regardless of his or her sex.
The ruling takes effect as of the day of its pronouncement.