South Korea court recognises surrogate mother as legal parent

SEOUL - A South Korea court ruled on Friday (May 18) that a surrogate mother is legally the parent of the child she has given birth to, instead of the genetic parents.

The Seoul Family Court made the appellate decision against a couple who filed the suit against a local district office for refusing to take the couple's application to register the child's birth, Yonhap news agency reported.

The couple hired a surrogate to bear their embryo. She gave birth to the baby in a hospital in the United States, where the staff happened to issue the birth certificate under the surrogate's name as the mother.

When the couple tried to register the child as their own in South Korea, the district office would not accept it, citing the different mothers' names.

In Friday's ruling, the court said the act of giving birth should trump genetic factors in determining the legal parent.

"The mother-child relationship includes an emotional phase built over a long period of time, such as 40 weeks of pregnancy and the pain of labour and feeding," the court said. "It is appropriate to protect by law the maternity developed through such an emotional bond."

Childbirth through a surrogate is forbidden in South Korea.

The court also noted that determining the parent only by blood or the word of the genetic parents can undermine such maternity and the welfare of the baby, Yonhap reported.

"It can also result in forcing the (sense of motherhood developed by the surrogate) to be suppressed, or cause a woman to have a distorted view about pregnancy as a service she can offer."