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Can cousins marry in Korea?


In this article, we will explore the topic of cousin marriage in Korea. Cousin marriage has been a controversial topic in many cultures, and Korea is no exception. We will examine the legal and cultural aspects of cousin marriage in Korea and provide a comprehensive understanding of the topic.

History of cousin marriage in Korea

Cousin marriage has a long history in Korea, dating back to the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). During this time, cousin marriage was common among the aristocracy as a way to preserve their bloodlines and maintain their social status. However, the practice declined during the 20th century due to increased education and urbanization.

Legal status of cousin marriage in Korea

In Korea, cousin marriage is legal and not considered incestuous. However, there are some limitations depending on the degree of relatedness. First cousins can legally marry, but second cousins are prohibited from marrying by law. Additionally, if the couple shares a common grandparent, they are not allowed to marry.

Cultural attitudes towards cousin marriage in Korea

Despite being legal, cousin marriage is still stigmatized in Korean society. Many Koreans regard cousin marriage as taboo and believe that it can result in birth defects or other health problems for potential offspring. This belief is not supported by scientific evidence.

Reasons for cousin marriage in Korea

Cousin marriage is still practiced in Korea for a variety of reasons. Some couples may choose to marry their cousins because they share common interests or values. Others may marry their cousins due to family pressure or tradition.

Risks associated with cousin marriage

While there is no scientific evidence that cousin marriage leads to birth defects or other health problems, there is an increased risk of genetic disorders among offspring. This risk is higher for closer degrees of relatedness, such as first cousins.

Genetic counseling for cousin marriage

To address the risks associated with cousin marriage, genetic counseling is available in Korea. Couples who are considering cousin marriage can consult with a genetic counselor to assess their risk of passing on genetic disorders to their children.

International attitudes towards cousin marriage

Cousin marriage is legal in many countries around the world, including some Western countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia. However, it is still stigmatized in many cultures and remains a controversial topic.

Religious attitudes towards cousin marriage

In some religions, such as Islam, cousin marriage is encouraged as a way to maintain family ties and preserve bloodlines. In other religions, such as Christianity, cousin marriage is discouraged or prohibited.

Cousin marriage in pop culture

Cousin marriage has been portrayed in Korean pop culture, such as in the popular television drama “Winter Sonata.” The drama depicts a romantic relationship between first cousins, which was controversial at the time of its release.


In conclusion, cousin marriage is legal in Korea but remains stigmatized in Korean society. While there are risks associated with cousin marriage, genetic counseling can help couples assess their risk of passing on genetic disorders to their children. Ultimately, the decision to marry one’s cousin should be based on individual circumstances and personal beliefs.

Is cousin marriage common in South Korea?

Indigenous cultures in Australia, North America, South America, and Polynesia have historically engaged in cousin marriage. However, some places, such as mainland China, Taiwan, North Korea, South Korea, the Philippines, and 24 states in the US, have laws prohibiting cousin marriage.

Do Koreans marry relatives?

In 1957, the rule prohibiting marriage between individuals with the same surname and ancestral home was written down as Article 809. This article stated that if two individuals are blood relatives and share the same surname and ancestral home, they cannot get married.

Which countries allow cousins to marry?

In many Middle Eastern and Muslim countries, cousin marriage is not only allowed but also encouraged. This form of consanguinity involves couples who are related as second cousins or closer. In the Arab world, an average of 45% of married couples were related as of 2003.

Can you not marry someone with the same last name in Korea?

In South Korea, it is prohibited by Article 809 of the Family Law for individuals with the same family name and place of origin to marry, as they are believed to be from the same clan and share a male ancestor. This law has been in place since March 17, 1992.

Is it legal to marry your cousin in Japan?

In East Asia, Japan allows first-cousin marriage but it has become less common in recent times. China has banned first-cousin marriage since 1981, although cross-cousin marriage used to be a common practice in rural areas.

What do Koreans call their cousin?

In Korean culture, the term “sa-chon” is used to refer to a cousin in general, while the term “jo-kah” is used for a gender-neutral niece or nephew. Similar to how titles are used for other family members, such as “big brother” or “dad”, the title for an uncle can also be modified to a more casual or familiar version depending on the relationship.

Alternative family planning options in Korea

For couples who are concerned about the risks associated with cousin marriage, there are alternative family planning options available in Korea. These options include adoption, in vitro fertilization (IVF), and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD).

Adoption is a popular option in Korea, with many couples choosing to adopt children domestically or internationally. IVF is also widely available in Korea, and can help couples conceive without the risk of passing on genetic disorders.

PGD is a more advanced form of IVF that allows doctors to screen embryos for genetic disorders before implantation. This can help couples who are carriers of genetic disorders to have healthy children.

Future of cousin marriage in Korea

As Korea continues to modernize and urbanize, it is likely that the practice of cousin marriage will continue to decline. However, it is also possible that the practice may persist among certain segments of society.

Ultimately, the decision to marry one’s cousin should be based on individual circumstances and personal beliefs. While there are risks associated with cousin marriage, it is important to remember that every family is unique, and what works for one family may not work for another.

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