Married Immigrants > International Marriage > Establishment of International Marriage > I
International marriage refers to a marital relationship between a man and a woman of different nationalities. To be legally acknowledged under the laws of the Republic of Korea, the international marriage must be a de jure marriage that satisfies both element and formality requirements of marriage.
 Introduction: International Marriage
International marriage refers to a marital relationship between a man and a woman of different nationalities.

To be legally acknowledged under the laws of the Republic of Korea, the international marriage must be a de jure marriage that satisfies both element and formality requirements of marriage.
What is international marriage?
Definition of International Marriage
- International marriage generally refers to a marital relationship between a man and a woman of different nationalities.
- For an international marriage to be validly acknowledged by law, it must satisfy the element requirements of marriage such as the eligible age of marriage, consanguineous marriage ban, and prohibition of bigamy, as well as the formality requirements such as marriage report.
- The elements of the establishment of marriage shall be governed by the law of the nationality of each party, while the formalities of marriage shall be governed by the law of the place where the marriage occurs or the law of nationality of one of the parties. (Article 36, 「Private International Act」).
De Jure Marriage vs. De Facto Marriage
How does a de jure marriage differ from a de facto marriage?
- De jure marriage refers to a marriage legally acknowledged as satisfying both elements and formalities of marriage.
- De facto marriage means a relationship in which a man and a wife live as a couple without formally reporting their marriage. Even if you held a wedding ceremony and/or have a child, you are not acknowledged as a married couple under the 「Civil Act」 if you haven’t reported your marriage.
- Since the Republic of Korea acknowledges only de jure marriages, foreign nationals in a de facto marital relationship may only be partially entitled to rights and obligations of those in de jure marriages.
Limitations of De Facto Marriage
● Naturalization
- If you want to obtain Korean nationality and you are a foreigner in a de facto marriage with a Korean national, you should apply for general naturalization (Article 5,「Nationality Act」) rather than simple naturalization (Article 6.(2), supra).
- If you are a foreigner in a de jure marriage with a Korean national, even if your Korean spouse dies or becomes missing before you obtain Korean nationality, you can still apply for simple naturalization by submitting the required documents and/or otherwise make your case, a benefit not granted to spouses in a de facto marriage.
● Legal Status of Child
- Establishment of relationship between a child born of a de facto marriage and the parents shall be governed, in principle, by the law of nationality of the mother of the child at the time of the birth of the child; provided that the establishment of the relationship between a child and the father may be governed by the law of nationality of the father at the time of the birth of the child or by the law of habitual residence of the child at the present time. (Article 41.(1), 「Private International Act).
- Under the 「Civil Act」 of the Republic of Korea, a child shall succeed in his/her father’s surname and origin of surname, but in cases where the child is from a de facto marriage, he/she succeeds in the surname and the origin of surname of the mother. If the child from a de facto marriage is affiliated, the child may take on the surname and the origin of surname of the father, or else continue to use the mother’s surname and origin of surname subject to the agreement of the parents. (Article 781.(1), (3), (5), 「Civil Act」).
● Miscellaneous
- Since a de facto marriage neither entails any changes in registered family relations nor renouncements rise to new kinship, you are not entitled to inheritance if your de facto spouse dies.
※ Provided, that if no person asserts his/her right to inheritance, the de facto spouse may request for apportionment of the deceased’s property as a person of special connection. (Article 1057-2,「Civil Act」).
- Even if a de facto spouse marries someone else, it does not constitute bigamy.
- If a de facto spouse commits adultery, the other spouse may file for consolation money but cannot take a criminal action for the conduct.
Protection of De Facto Spouses
● Under Social Protection Laws
- The following legal provisions speculate that de facto spouses be entitled to various pension benefits in case of the Korean spouse’s death: Article 48.(1), 「Enforcement Decree of the Labor Standards Act」; Article 3.(1).2, 「National Pension Act」; Article 3.(1).4, 「Veterans’ Pension Act」; Article 2.(1).2, 「Pension for Private School Teachers and Staff Act」; Article 29.(1), 「Enforcement Decree of the Seafarers Act」; Article 5.(3), 「Industrial Accident Compensation Insurance Act」; Article 5.(1).1, 「Act on the Honorable Treatment and Support of Persons, etc. of Distinguished Services to the State」; and Article 5.(1).1, (2),「Act on the Honorable Treatment of Persons of Distinguished Services to Independence」.
● Under the 「Housing Lease Protection Act」
- If the lessee dies without a person having the right of inheritance, the de facto spouse who has lived together with the lessee as a member of the family at his/her house, shall succeed to the rights and obligations of the lessee. (Article 9.(1), 「Housing Lease Protection Act」).
- In the case that the lessee is dead, if the person having the right of inheritance has not lived together with the lessee as a member of the family at his/her house, the de facto spouse and the relatives within the second degree of relationship therewith, who have lived together with him at his/her house, shall jointly succeed to the rights and obligations of the lessee. (Article 9.(2), supra).