The Seoul Family Court on Sunday ruled in favor of a Philippine woman and her two sons in a paternity suit against the children’s South Korean father, officially acknowledging their biological connection.
The court accepted the blood relationship between the Korean man and his Kopino children – a term that refers to a child born out of wedlock to a Philippine mother and a Korean father – based on DNA test results and the boys’ birth certificates.
The ruling is the first of its kind here and is likely to have broader implications for the tens of thousands of abandoned Kopino children who exist outside the country.
Kopino children, also called “Korinoy” in Filipino slang, are mostly born between Philippine women and Korean men who travel to Southeast Asia for business or study.
The majority of Kopino children are neglected or abandoned by their fathers, a trend that has resulted in the use of the term “ugly Korean” by locals, and left the mothers of the babies with few options. The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country and abortion there is illegal.
In the paternity suit, the Seoul Family Court’s Judge Kwon Yang-hee concluded that the Philippine woman’s 16-year-old and 14-year-old sons were the biological children of the Korean defendant.
The names of all parties in the suit were withheld for privacy.
The Korean man was already married and had two children in Korea when he moved alone to the Philippines in 1997 for business, where he cohabited with the woman for seven years and fathered the two boys. In 2004, however, he abruptly returned to Korea and severed all contact.
But the woman flew to Korea with the man’s picture and name, and managed to locate him in 2012. With assistance from the Emergency Support Center for Migrant Women, she filed a paternity suit for her children in December the same year.
The defendant initially refused DNA testing, arguing that it would destroy his family in Korea, but relented under the threat of a court-ordered injunction and fine. Once the ruling is finalized, the plaintiffs will be entitled to child support. The children will also be included on the man’s official family register.
According to civic groups, the number of Kopino children has increased rapidly in recent years, making it an issue of growing concern. The exact number of Kopino children is difficult to pinpoint, but Ecpat International, a global network of organizations dedicated to protecting children, estimates that there are about 30,000.
BY SHIM SAE-ROM, KIM BONG-MOON [[email protected]]
Sometimes Korean officialdom does get something right!