Court rules against annulling existing third-cousin and closer marriages

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SEOUL, Oct. 27 (Yonhap) — The current civil law invalidating marriages between third cousins ​​and close relatives is unconstitutional and needs to be reviewed, the Constitutional Court ruled Thursday.

The court said it is constitutional for civil law to prohibit marriages between third cousins ​​and nearest cousins. But a civil law clause that nullifies existing marriages between third cousins ​​and next of kin is unconstitutional and must be changed, the court said.

The decision came after a plaintiff in divorce proceedings asked the court to consider the possible unconstitutionality of the second clause of Article 815 of the Civil Law, which states that if persons within cousins ​​​in the third degree marry, the marriage is subject to annulment.

The court usually renders a decision of non-constitutional conformity to avoid the confusion of an immediate annulment of a legal provision, although it recognizes its unconstitutionality. If the legislator does not modify the law, the clause of the Civil Act will lose its effect after December 31, 2024.

The court ruled that the first clause of section 815 of the civil law prohibiting marriages between third cousins ​​and closer was unconstitutional.

The constitutional petition began after the plaintiff was ordered by the district and appellate courts to divorce his wife, a first cousin.

The couple were married for several years after meeting in the United States, but the plaintiff’s wife filed for divorce after returning to South Korea.

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