Disclaimer: The facts are incontrovertibly, and SO ARE THE NAMES.
You Don’t Need an Ivy League Education, But….
Jae Kyung Park (박재경), a mother of 3 children (all American citizens) lives in Daechi-dong, Gangnam. She was born in Korea, moved to the U.S. at an early age, graduated from college (U of Chicago) and then graduate school (Harvard). She is currently a lecturer at one of the prestigious SKY (Seoul, Korea, Yonsei) universities. After many years of marriage, she is now estranged from her husband. No legal actions have occurred as yet, but not for the lack of trying. She has changed residency without the knowledge of her estranged husband, but the oldest two children attend Korean public school, where they speak Korean like natives, and English like Americans. The mother has prohibited communication and visitation with the father of any sort, despite repeated attempts at communication. From there, the controversy begins.
The Korean Police Cannot Help
In Korea, domestic disputes are a matter of Family Law. Even if there is physical violence (there has not been in this case), this again is a matter of Family Law. Americans, of course, would find this odd at best; battered wives can file (and do) criminal assault charges against their husbands in the U.S.. That is precisely how Ms Park is hiding her children. Refusing to answer queries regarding the children’s location and her own residence, there is no mechanism for an American citizen to locate Ms Park or the children. The Korean police do not consider this a crime. It is a matter for Family Court, and the only way for this to be adjudicated is via a filing with the Family Court. That is also not possible, because Ms Park will not divulge her personal information nor location in Korea. As one may know, there are many, many Jae Kyung Park’s in Korea, where Jae Kyung are both a male and a female name.
The US State Department is Powerless
You might suggest that since the children are US citizens, that the US State Department can help. That is true to a very limited extent. It has no jurisdiction in Korea (obviously). Of course, if any of this occurred in the U.S., then this might be a potential Amber Alert situation. Of course, if any of this occurred in the U.S., the costs of locating the children, and the full legal/travel costs in restoring visitation rights could be assessed to the offending party. Of course, if any of this occurred in the U.S., the father could press criminal charges against Ms Park. Obviously, entering the U.S. with the children is a non-starter for Ms Park, who would face these charges upon entry. But, this is not occurring in the U.S. It is occurring in Korea, right now.
Alternatives Still Exist
All is not lost for the father. Private investigators can easily locate her. Her family resides in Daechi-dong. Ms Park’s father is a respected, retired United Methodist Minister, Park Lee Surp (박이섭). Ms Park’s older brother, Jae Kwang Park (박재광), an American citizen, works for SK Group as an executive within the a small cadre that includes Chairman Chey Tae-won, who was recently questioned by Korean prosecutors about alleged embezzlement. In short, practical measures exist, and the geographical area is small, relatively speaking.
Finally, law enforcement in the US can assist. Local law enforcement would be relatively useless, since the children reside in Korea. However, national law enforcement is different. The father can contact the FBI, which would raise the volume considerably. When there are federal criminal charges, Korea seems to behave differently. In this case, extradition of Ms Park may be possible. Of course, those that have aided her are not merely private persons, they will have a new label: accomplices.
Quite Simple, Right? For Now, Yes
For now, Ms Park rests safely in Seoul. Korea is not part of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Childhood Abduction or the The Hague Convention of 1996 on the International Protection of Children. That means that civil charges in the U.S. would not be reciprocated and honored in Korea. There has been press regarding this matter. In the most recent past, Japan has finally signed up to join the league of 130+ nations that do adhere to the Hague Convention, after considerable negative publicity. Korea is conspicuous by its absence from this league of nations, despite reported progress towards this end.
Furthermore, The Hague Convention of 1996 on the International Protection of Children states that the jurisdiction of residence (Korea) would be the governing jurisdiction. In other words, what may well be a criminal matter in the U.S. is a Family Court matter in Korea. When you walk the streets of Korea, and you see women covered, hiding bruises, you now know why: their only defense is Family Court.
Korea’s Continued Juxtapositions
Korea is full of juxtapositions. Old vs. new is not only something that describes the physical age of physical things, it also describes the way of thinking. As a participant in the global community, Korea has struggled, is struggling, and will continue to struggle between its fervent desire to remain independent, and its desire to belong within the very few nations of the first world. Non-Koreans know mainly about Samsung Electronics and the North-South conflict, with little knowledge of these dynamics, that constantly weighs on Korean society. Paranoia? Maybe. Justified? After a history of foreign rulers, and dictatorial hegemony, paranoia may well be in order.
The Seoul Gyopo Guide may seem like a blog that describes financial matters, and it is. But, the reason for that is to point out the amazing accomplishments of the Korean people during the past 4 decades. It was one of the poorest, pathetic countries on Earth. Ask a Korean in their 70s. They will tell you, if they can summons the strength to describe the situation. It is now the 15th largest economy in the world, on land the size of Delaware. Further progress from here will be difficult: no longer is Korea the underdog on the international stage. However, the juxtapositions remain, and not resolving them will continue to weigh on the pace of progress. Those juxtapositions exist in the traditions of the nation (눈치), in the ways of conducting business (술집), and legal (Lone Star/KEB). This post? Just another example.