Hoju system


Hoju means 'head of the family,' and in Korea, the Hoju system is the system used to file the personal records of all Korean citizens. One person is named the hoju, and the rest of the family are registered under the hoju. So all the citizens' records are kept in family units, not individual files.

However, the Hoju system goes far beyond the function of certifying a citizen's identity. It is a gender discriminatory practice that acknowledges only paternal lineage by giving the man of the family first priority when naming the hoju.

For example, if the hoju dies, the family must report the transfer of the hoju title within one month, and there is a hierarchy involved. The first in line is a male descendent of the former hoju (his son, grandson, great grandson... all of whom are considered family regardless of marriage), followed by an unmarried female descendent (daughters are not considered family once they marry), the wife, the mother, and then the daughter-in-law.

This order of inheritance of the hoju title undermines equality among family members, and runs counter to the principle of the Constitution proclaiming that every individual has the right to dignity and gender equality in family life (Article 10). The Hoju system has been the grounds for countless unreasonable and gender discriminatory practices - subordinating the woman to her husband's family, making the children take their father's surname, prohibiting the woman from re-registering her children under her name if she divorces or remarries.

Korean women groups have long been critical of the Hoju system. In the past few years, they have fought to abolish this system by organizing various seminars, signature-collecting drives, and a campaign to use both parents' family names. They are also collected plaintiffs and filed a class suit against the Hoju system, in order to prove that it is a violation of the Constitution. Women groups are determined to put an end to the Hoju system within this year.

  Campaign to use both parents' surnames

A campaign launched in opposition of the current hoju system that gives only the hoju or father's surname to the children. A symbolic cultural and social campaign aimed at challenging the patriarchal and "son-first" mentality of Korean society by encouraging people to use their mothers' surnames as well.

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