South Korea cools off on hot-headed, speedy divorce

SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - The number of divorces in South Korea fell by about a quarter after it ended a system where marriages could end quicker than a movie and at fees cheaper than two cinema tickets, data obtained on Tuesday showed.

Last June, South Korea ended a policy that allowed most couples divorce on-the-spot and instead implemented a mandatory deliberation period before they could their end marriages.

The change came after some judges complained their courts were filled on Monday mornings with “hot-headed” couples seeking to split up after rough weekends. The judges called for laws to set up a cooling-off period to think over divorce decisions.

The Supreme Court said that after the system went into place, the number of couples cancelling their petitions seeking divorce increased while National Statistical Office data showed those actually divorcing fell sharply from the same period a year ago.

Under the previous system, couples who filed papers at a local government office and paid a fee equal to a few dollars could obtain a divorce in less than an hour.

The new system requires couples with children to go through a three-month deliberation process while childless couples can end their marriage after a one-month period. On-the-spot divorces are still granted in cases of physical or sexual abuse.

Yoo Jae-bok, a former family court judge who helped lead the call for changing the quick divorce law, said the new system has proven effective but could still be improved.

“I would like to see judges have more room for discretion in deciding the length of the deliberation period. The system either could be too short for some or a pain in the neck for others,” Yoo said on Tuesday.

The number of divorces in South Korea has almost doubled in the decade starting in 1995 to become one of the highest in Asia.

Social stigmas that used to make couples reluctant to break up have faded as the country has become more prosperous and less bound by tradition, experts said.

Writing by Jon Herskovitz, editing by Miral Fahmy