By: Eric Lee, Division Chief of Los Angeles Child Support Services Department Intergovernmental Office
As a Korean-American child support professional in Los Angeles County, I have always wondered how child support worked in South Korea. I regularly Googled “child support in Korea” and would be dismayed that I was directed to the same newspaper article about the difficulty of collecting child support in Korea. That is until 2015, when I heard that a new agency was formed: the Korean Child Support Agency (KCSA).
Last December, my Director Dr. Steven Golightly spoke at a child support conference in Australia where he met Professor Yiyoon Chung of Konkuk University in Korea. Steven and Yiyoon struck up a quick friendship. Upon Steven’s return from Australia, Steven suggested that I reach out to Yiyoon if I had any questions regarding child support in Korea. In June, when Steven learned that I was going to Korea for vacation, he formally introduced me to Yiyoon. During my conversations with Yiyoon, I explained my desire to visit the KCSA. She quickly arranged a visit with the KCSA, where I was introduced to the Director of Counseling and the Chief Attorney of the KCSA.
Organizationally, the KCSA is under the umbrella of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, and is bi-furcated into two separate sub-departments: the Office of Counseling and the Office of Child Support Implementation. Unlike the U.S., they provide mediation service on the issue of visitation. The KCSA also provides short term financial assistance for indigent parents who have physical custody of the children. Additionally, the agency represents the custodial parent and assists with preparing court documents and appearing in court. More detailed information can be found on the KCSA’s website at www.childsupport.or.kr/eng/.
I was impressed at how far they had come in such a short period. I learned that the KCSA manages approximately 10,000 cases and reports collections of $30 million. However, like all of us, the agency faces their own challenges. They have yet to develop a formal automated enforcement system, so all case work is done the old-fashioned way – by hand, telephone, or person-to-person. Also, the agency does not have a State Disbursement Unit equivalent. The money is accounted for by calling the Parties Receiving Support and verifying receipt. As far as Korea’s entry into the Hague Convention, the agency remains hopeful it will one day happen. Given its rapid progression, I have no doubt it will happen in the near future.
Although LA County does not have formal relationship with the KCSA, we agreed to collaborate in the future with the goal to refer cases to one another for enforcement. After the meeting, they asked if it was ok if they posted photos from the meeting on their Instagram account (http://www.instagram.com/Childsupport_KR) and I was happy to oblige!
If you have any questions about my visit to Korea, please contact me at Eric_Lee@cssd.lacounty.gov.