Choi’s ex-husband, former baseball player Cho Sung-min has decided to let his two children stay with their grandmother, Jung Ok-sook.
Here’s an article in the JoongAng Daily about this
(December 10, 2008) – Former baseball player Cho Sung-min, the ex-husband of the late actress Choi Jin-sil, has agreed to give up his parental rights to the couple’s two children.
Choi’s mother, Jung Ok-sook, will be the children’s legal guardian. At a press conference last Monday at Seocho Art Hall in Banpo-dong, southern Seoul, Cho said he will give up both his parental and property rights. Cho gave up his custodial rights after the couple divorced in 2004 but regained them after Choi’s death in October.
“I have never sought any part of Choi’s fortune,” he said. “I will no longer leave a scar in my children’s hearts but only love them.” (end)
After Choi killed herself, the focus was on who would take care of her children.
Here’s an article in the Korea Times on November 16, 2008 about the bitter custody battle:
Parental Law under attack
By Bae Ji-sook
A custody battle between the bereaved family members of the late actress Choi Jin-sil and her divorced husband Cho Sung-min has become not only the talk of the town but a catalyst for the revision of the nation’s patriarchal Parental Law.
While some defend Cho taking care of the children, some suspect Choi’s property might be the main motive for the father’s sudden interest in childrearing. The total wealth of the late actress is estimated at between $5-20 million. Furthermore, the case has ignited public awareness of the current law’s outdated interpretation for the custody of children.
When Choi killed herself on Oct. 2, people assumed that the her two children, aged six and four, would stay with their maternal grandmother since Choi had divorced her former baseball player husband Cho in 2004.
Since their highly publicized divorce was nasty ― covered with allegations of domestic violence, infidelity and ignorance ― few assumed Cho would be subject to newspaper coverage.
However, two weeks after the funeral, he told Choi’s bereaved family members that her property should be inherited by their children and that a guardian and custody holder, himself, would let a third person ― not Choi’s mother or brother ― take care of it till the children reached maturity.
The family members revealed that Cho had given up his parental rights by signing a contract with Choi during their divorce exchanging them for Choi paying off his debts. Since then, Cho has reportedly neither visited the children nor communicated with them. He has remarried and started a new life.
Choi’s mother Jeong Ok-suk, told weekly magazine SisaIn that what Cho was actually seeking his ex-wife’s money. She claimed that using the parental rights over the children, Cho has closed all of Choi’s bank accounts on which the family depended when she was alive. She said that since Cho gave up his parental rights voluntarily long ago, he should not now act as the father.
However, Cho claimed he wants nothing else but the children’s welfare and that he would let a trustee manage the money for the children’s sake. He said he will be willing to let the maternal side of the family share custody and stressed that parental rights were not signed away with a piece of paper, as the death of his former spouse immediately revived them.
Women Groups vs. Confucians
The controversy over the custody of the children is pitting women’s rights groups against Confucians represented by Seongkyunkwan, the country’s highest Confucian academy.
The Parental Law is based on the traditional idea that children should be with their biological father or mother. Therefore, once a mother or father dies, the rights of custody and all assets left behind automatically go to the other parent. In Choi’s case, the family cannot exercise any claim over her property without Cho’s consent.
Confucians and conservative groups argue that the custody of the children should go to their father.
“Custody must go to Cho Sung-min as the relationship between children and parents are relations made in heaven,” Seongkyunkwan’s senior official Choi Young-gap said.
However, women’s rights groups and Internet users denounced Cho and are demanding a relevant law revision to prevent such a case happening again.
On Saturday, online community members against Cho’s custody claims protested a court’s possible ruling in favor of Cho. They held out red carnations, the symbol of maternity, and said Cho does not deserve the right to claim parenthood.
Won Min-kyoung, a lawyer and adviser to the protestors, said the law should be stricter in confirming parental rights.
“We should have a tougher screening procedure. In the United States and Germany, the court screens the remaining parent and should she or he fail, custody and parental rights go to other family members according to how close they are related to the deceased,” she said.
She also suggested that a temporary guardian system be adopted so that the court can take enough time in designating parental rights. “The civil law puts the welfare and happiness of the children as tantamount. We should keep that in mind,” she said.
Some members of the opposition Democratic Party are studying revising the law. “It’s not about Choi and Cho but it’s about all single parent families here. They should be protected from concerns that their property could be abused by their former spouse once they die,” Rep. Kim Sang-hee said. She said the law should guarantee the rights of the children and seek their true happiness.
Early last week, actresses Son Sook and Kim Bu-sun, Radio DJ Heo Su-kyeong, Won and several others launched an alliance for single parent families. The group plans to hold a public hearing about the Parental Law today and Friday.