Cheers erupted worldwide when K-drama Descendants of the Sun stars Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Gyo announced their wedding plans. However, even more stunning than the surprise announcement is that, had it been just a dozen years ago, the Song-Song Couple's marriage would have been deemed illegal in South Korea. 

Although the stars are fondly nicknamed by their fans as the "Song-Song Couple," the fact that they bear the same last name would have prevented them from marrying legally in South Korea before 2005, a mere 12 years ago.

Article 809 of the Korean Civil Code, until it was ruled unconstitutional, forbade the marriage between men and women with the same last name and same ancestral clan. In 1997, the article was overturned by the Constitutional Court of Korea and later amended in 2002 by the National Assembly of South Korea. The new law came into being in 2005. However, the restriction still applies to men and women who are closely related according to certain criteria.

While the original article was in place, couples in love were forced to make a difficult choice. Although some sadly broke up, others chose to lived together. Unfortunately, the children from such a union were legally illegitimate and could have difficulty registering in school. The New York Times, in 1996, reported such a phenomenon and noted that 22 percent of South Koreans had the same last name of Kim, and over 55 percent of the population had last names of Kim, Park, Lee, Choi, or Chong, adding extra burdens in the marriage quest. (This article explains why so many Koreans have the same last name.)

When the Constitutional Court overturned Article 809, it said the law "restricts the right to seek happiness" and that it denied equal treatment of women by only following paternal blood lines. Twenty years later, a new movement is brewing in Asia. In May, Taiwan (officially Republic of China) became the first country in Asia to recognize marriage equality. Which Asian country will follow next?

Best wishes to the Song-Song Couple!

Correction: This article originally stated that the law went into effect in 1995. It was 2005.


Descendants of the Sun

Starring Song Joong Ki and Song Hye Gyo

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