Parents in South Korea not obliged to look after adult children, top court rules
Adult son took his father to court demanding he pay for his studies in the US
By Chyung Eun-ju and Park Si-soo
Parents do not have custodial duties for adult child, South Korea’s top court has ruled.
The Supreme Court set the rule with a case in which an adult son filed a suit against his divorced father, demanding he cover the cost of studying in the United States.
The court rejected the claim, stating that the father was not obliged to look after his adult child.
The father-son dispute dates back to 2010 when the father’s second son fled to the U.S. at age 15 for study, without his father’s consent. The father refused to support the son there, including school tuition and other living costs.
The parents divorced shortly afterward, with the mother given custody and the father obliged to support their basic life.
In 2016, the son filed a suit against the father, demanding that he pay 140 million won (US$123,000) to cover tuition and living costs at a prestigious university to which he was admitted in 2014.
The son claimed his father was obliged to support him financially because “an increasing number of children make their living with money from their parents.”
He referred to favourable verdicts made in Japan, the U.S., the U.K. and Italy.
A provincial court ruled in favour of the father and an appellate court upheld the decision.
“The parent has the duty to support the adult child only when the parent is financially capable and the parent’s suspension of support would risk plunging the child into a state of poverty,” the Supreme Court ruled.
“Tuition fees are not part of basic living costs, so the son cannot legally request the father’s help to cover them.”