International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA): A Legal Response in Korea

How to return your child from South Korea in international child abduction

child abduction in south korea

1. What is child abduction?

When lawyers say ‘’Child abduction case”, it normally means an international child kidnapping case by the Hague child abduction convention. It applies to the event that your child/children are wrongfully removed or wrongfully retained across borders. South Korea acceded to the international child abduction convention. Korea has enacted the law to implement the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction.

The Hague Child Abduction convention is to protect children under the age of 16 from being illegally removed or wrongfully retained. It mostly happens when your marriage is about to break down, or in the process of divorce, so it often goes hand in hand with divorce and custody proceedings.

2. How to return your child from South Korea when your child is internationally abducted

  1. File the application for assistance to the central authorities.
    You can file the application for assistance for your child’s return to the country where your child is wrongfully removed, and also to Korean central authorities. All Hague Convention countries have a centralized authority to assist a parent whose child is wrongfully removed, or retained.
  1. Locate your child through the assistance of central authorities, Korean police, or lawyers assistance. If you don’t know where abducting parent or party is, and your child as well. If it takes too long to locate the child, you can also get assistance from a Korean attorney who speaks English and is experienced well in international child abduction matters.
  1. File for a preliminary injunction in court to prevent another subsequent wrongful removal, such as removing the child to another country again, or any further actions detrimental to the welfare of the child. You can also request access arrangements for your child.
  1. File for child return lawsuit in Seoul Family court.
    If a parent who wrongfully removes the child, or wrongfully retains the child refuses to return the child back to his/her habitual residence, you should quickly move to a child return lawsuit based on the Hague convention, since central authorities only assist, but limit to force anything until you obtain the court ruling. When it comes to international Child abduction, time is super sensitive. If you file a lawsuit more than one year after your child was wrongfully taken to South Korea, your case for child return under the Hague Convention may be dismissed (Act On The Implementation Of The Hague Child Abduction Convention, Article 12). Even if it hasn’t been a year if you wait to file, the children may have already adjusted to living with abducting parent, then even if you win the child return case, it may be difficult to actually take the child back to live with you based on the judgment (we’ll cover this in another article). So we strongly recommend that time is the key in child abduction cases, and you should move to legal action very quickly.

  2. Notify of wrongful removal or retention of a child to the court.
    In many cases, abducting parent file for divorce and child custody cases in family courts in South Korea. Without notifying the child of the abduction to court, the divorce lawsuit can be proceeded with default base, giving a child custody or custodial right to abducting parent. Upon receipt of the notice. the court shall suspend judicial proceedings on the merits pursuant to Article 16 of the convention(Act On The Implementation Of The Hague Child Abduction Convention of Korea, Article 7, Notice of Wrongful Removal or Retention of Child)”.
  1. File a criminal complaint at the beginning of, or in the middle of the course of legal actions to return your child back. When you need to locate your children, in many cases, filing a police complaint is faster than the central authority’s resolution for locating. Criminal Law of Child Abduction in Korea states that “A person who obtains and maintains a minor under the control of his/hers or a third person by means of the threat, use of force or other forms of coercion, or by means of fraud, deception or enticement shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than ten years(Korean Criminal Act, Article 287 Kidnapping or Abduction of Minors), also states that “ The preceding paragraph shall apply to a person who obtains and maintains another under the control of his/hers or a third person by means of the threat, use of force or other forms of coercion, or by means of fraud, deception or enticement for the purpose of transporting him/her out of the Republic of Korea, or a person who transports such a victim out of the Republic of Korea(Korean Criminal Act, Article 288 Kidnapping, Abduction for Purpose of Indecent Acts, etc)”.

3. International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA) lawsuit, divorce, and child custody in Korea

The child abduction parent takes the child without telling you, or lies to take the child and brings the child to South Korea, and then refuses to return home. International child abduction sometimes occurs during divorce and child custody proceedings, or right before it. Sometimes the parent who wrongfully took the child may file a divorce and custody case to the court, deceiving the court about child abduction. Sometimes even claim child support, but it can’t be accepted. We’ll cover this in another article.

4. Korean Child abduction lawyer

 There aren’t many child abduction expert attorneys in Korea. We found that some lawyers even provided the wrong perception of the nature of the child abduction case to their clients.

But an international child abduction case is Time-sensitive one. Plus there are many steps you should consider, and authorities you should contact. We’ve handled numerous international child abduction cases in Korea, actively co-working with the local attorneys in your country, and central authorities.


Lee & Lee law office’s english speaking lawyers provide clients with the highest quality representation

SEOUL, Gangnam Office (Korea) | Kristen Y. LEE
2F, 27-6, 162 Gangnam-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Republic of Korea


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