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Civil Code to Undergo Dramatic Changes

Posted October. 08, 2008 09:10,   


The country’s civil code is up for major amendments, including lowering the legal adult age from 20 to 19.

Since its enactment in 1958, the code has undergone partial revisions. This time, however, the Justice Ministry announced yesterday that it will introduce a bill to overhaul the code for the first time in 50 years.

The amendments will come in phases from next year to 2012.

Above all, the legal adult will be cut to 19 instead of 20, allowing a Korean at age 19 or above to marry without parental consent, apply for a credit card, and take professional certification exams.

Under existing civil law, if a 19-year-old buys a cell phone without parental consent, the sales agreement is deemed null and void. The seller must refund the money to the minor’s parents.

More than 140 laws cite provisions in the code, thus the proposed amendments are expected to cause huge ripple effects across the board.

A Justice Ministry official said, “In 2005, a 19-year-old got the right to vote. Furthermore, the Teen Protection Act deems age 19 as the barometer between puberty and adulthood. We’ve considered these facts.”

The ministry will also widen the scope of guardianship to include the elderly and disabled adults, instead of simply minors and incapacitated individuals. Furthermore, a contract-based guardianship will allow a person to hire a guardian in the future.

Experts have long criticized the existing guardianship system, saying guardians have been limited to a monetary role and the system mostly bars a person from acting independently.

The ministry said amendments will give more leverage to guardians so that they can provide not only monetary but also personal protection to those in their custody.

Moreover, more freedom will be granted in setting up non-profit legal entities. A permit will be no longer required to set up a non-profit organization pending parliamentary approval. Statutes of limitation will also undergo changes.

“The real estate recording system has developed and advanced considerably. Under these circumstances, it sounds unreasonable to grant title to a property just because a person has possessed it for a long time,” the ministry official said.

In practice, people often use liens and guarantors widely as collateral for debts. But the civil code contains one provision concerning the former, so new provisions will be amended to complement the latter.

Considering the wide use of the Internet and the huge volume of online transactions, new provisions will govern legal expressions made electronically and other e-transactions.