This article examines false registration as a method of domestic adoption in South Korea. The article argues that the practice of falsely registering adoptees as natural births in the family registry emerged in response to the highly restrictive adoption laws in South Korea. As adopting agnatic kin for the purpose of family succession was deemed the only legitimate form of adoption, significant hurdles existed for other kinds of adoption in Korea. This article examines the history of domestic adoption in Korea and highlights the legal hurdles to domestic adoption. These restrictive adoption customs first originated during the Chosŏn dynasty (1392–1910) as a prescription for yangban elite; they were then codified as customary law for all Koreans under Japanese colonial rule (1910–45). The ban on non-agnatic adoption continued in the postcolonial period when it was codified in the new Civil Code of 1960. Multiple legal reforms were attempted since the 1970s to promote domestic adoptions, but change was slow. This article argues that the highly restrictive nature of adoption laws in South Korea produced an adoption regime that existed largely outside of the legal realm.

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