"I can’t take my wife’s last name." The engagement was broken off when the man refused to use his last name… Is ‘selective couple separation’ possible in Japan? – Hankook Ilbo VRESP TODAY

Same-sex marriage hinders gender equality and women’s human rights
‘Couple Separation’ was blocked due to opposition from the Liberal Democratic Party
Keidanrendo and Kagawa Prefecture also “need to introduce”

Marriage registration.  Getty Image Bank

Marriage registration. Getty Image Bank

“Isn’t it okay to use Hong Soo-bin as your grandchild’s name?”, “Is it Hong Soo-bin, not Baek Soo-bin?”

This is an episode about the ‘family name’ that appeared in episode 1 of the recently aired tvN popular drama ‘Queen of Tears.’ This is a scene in which Baek Hyeon-woo, an ordinary man who married Hong Hae-in, a third-generation chaebol woman of the large conglomerate Queens Group, is bitter at his father-in-law’s words that his future granddaughter will take on the family name of her chaebol mother, not her father.

In Korea, it may seem like a couple’s last name issue that would only appear in a drama, but it happens often in real life in Japan. The issue of surnames often becomes a source of conflict in the process of preparing for marriage between a man and a woman who have made a promise to each other. This is because Japan has adopted a ‘couple same-sex system’ that is difficult to find in the world. In Japan, at the moment of marriage, one party must give up his or her last name. In order to reduce social conflict, there are calls to introduce a ‘selective couple surname system’ in which couples can choose whether to use the same last name or keep their own surnames, but they have not yet overcome the barriers of conservative Japanese society.

In a scene from the tvN drama 'Queen of Tears', the main characters are standing side by side.  Provided by tvN

In a scene from the tvN drama ‘Queen of Tears’, the main characters are standing side by side. Provided by tvN

Rei Nakashima (pseudonym), a woman in her 30s from Gifu Prefecture, Japan, had to go through the pain of breaking off her engagement four years ago due to a problem with her last name. As she promised to marry her boyfriend at the time, she revealed her secret: ‘Her parents run a big business in Gifu Prefecture.’ But as the eldest daughter, she couldn’t change her last name because she had to run her parents’ business, so she asked her boyfriend, “Can I change her last name?” Her boyfriend promised to change her last name and her parents had a hard time convincing her to do so.

However, people around him did not leave him alone. Her boyfriend’s father said, “It’s hard because there’s so much talk about ‘Why are you giving up your son’s last name?’ I want my daughter-in-law to change her last name.” With these words, the marriage between the two became something that never happened. Nakashima changed her last name to her husband’s last name for her wedding last year. He said, “She couldn’t ask her husband to change because she was afraid her sex would become an issue again. She doesn’t want to go through that pain again.”

In 95% of married couples, the woman gives up sex.

Why do Japanese people have to change their last name upon marriage like Nakashima? Civil Code Article 750 Because. The moment a marriage is registered, the couple must legally use the same last name. You cannot change your last name unless your marriage partner is a foreigner, divorced, or widowed. It is a system that requires a couple to use the same last name, so it is okay for a husband to take his wife’s last name.

However, it is very rare for a man to change his last name due to the social perception that he must keep his husband’s last name. According to a survey by the Japanese Cabinet Office Of the 504,930 married couples in 2022, 94.7% (478,199 people) of wives took their husband’s last name.It was. As the statistics show In Japanese society, there is an underlying perception that ‘sex is for women to change.’ The moment you advise your husband to change his last name, you have to endure uncomfortable stares. Chie Yoshimura (pseudonym), an office worker in her 20s living in Tokyo, said, “I wanted to keep my last name, so I asked my husband, ‘Can you change it?’ and my father-in-law found out about this.” She continued, “Before marriage, I asked my father-in-law, ‘I asked my father-in-law, ‘I want to keep this wayward child.’ “I had to listen to the scolding, ‘Did you do that?’” he confessed.

Public opinion survey on the Japanese couple’s surname system.  Graphics = Reporter Kang Jun-gu

Public opinion survey on the Japanese couple’s surname system. Graphics = Reporter Kang Jun-gu

If you change your last name, you will have to endure some inconvenience for a while. You must change your last name on all documents such as your ID card, mobile phone, and bankbook. The inconvenient task of waiting at the counter for several hours for something that was not of her own choice ends up being the responsibility of the woman. It’s been a year since Yoshimura got married, but he hasn’t changed the name on his bank account yet. He said, “It takes a lot of time to change your name, and it is not easy to find time while working and taking care of your family.”Why do only women have to do this?“He sighed.

There are also people who have to endure harsh gaze just because they have a different last name. Children of divorced families are representative examples. If her wife changed her last name at the time of her marriage, after her divorce she must return to her old name. When her mother takes over child custody, her children have to take on her mother’s last name, and in this process, it is revealed that they are a ‘divorced family’.

The couple’s separate surname system has been discussed since 1991.

This is a photo from a video produced by the 'Sync Name Project', which is campaigning to introduce a selective surname system for couples in Japan. It states that if the same-sex system for couples is maintained, all athletes will wear Sato, the most commonly used surname in Japan.  Sync Name Project YouTube capture

This is a photo from a video produced by the ‘Sync Name Project’, which is campaigning to introduce a selective surname system for couples in Japan. It states that if the same-sex system for couples is maintained, all athletes will wear Sato, the most commonly used surname in Japan. Sync Name Project YouTube capture

The same-sex marriage system is a system that is out of sync with the value of gender equality, and as fatigue is increasing, an alternative has been developed. Selective couple separation systemall. The idea is to leave it up to the couple to decide whether to use the same last name or different last names. The social demand for the introduction of a selective marital separation system was formalized in 1991. The Legislative Council, an advisory body under Japan’s Ministry of Justice, began reviewing the selective marital separation system. It was not until 1996, five years after the review, that an official opinion was submitted to the government to ‘amend the Civil Act to abolish the same-sex marriage system.’ The Japanese government has also begun work on revising the bill in accordance with the Legislative Council’s proposal.

However, Japanese society, which has strong conservative tendencies, did not accept it. Due to opposition from the Liberal Democratic Party, a conservative party with a long-term ruling system, the government was unable to even prepare a bill and propose it to the National Assembly. The Mainichi Shimbun said,The Liberal Democratic Party and the conservative camp oppose selective surnames on the grounds that it could lead to the collapse of the traditional family system or have a negative impact on raising children (if families do not share the same last name).“He explained.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (second from right) arrives at an event hosted by the business group 'Keidanren (Keidanren)', a business group, held in Tokyo on December 26 last year and greets attendees.  Tokyo = AFP Yonhap News

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (second from right) arrives at an event hosted by the business group ‘Keidanren (Keidanren)’, a business group, held in Tokyo on December 26 last year and greets attendees. Tokyo = AFP Yonhap News

Of course, changes have recently begun to occur in Japanese society. On January 17, Japan’s representative economic organization ‘Keidanren (Keidanren)’ publicly supported the early introduction of the selective couple’s separate system.I also did it. This is the first time that Keidanren has requested the government to implement a selective marital separation system.

From an economic perspective, the same-sex marriage system is recognized as a system that hinders women’s advancement into society. In order to maintain their careers, an increasing number of women are keeping their old surnames before marriage, as it is often advantageous to continue using the old surname. For example, in the case of women in sales, if they change their last name due to marriage, they have to explain it to each of their business partners. If the business partner is a global company, there may be a misunderstanding that the person in charge was suddenly replaced due to a change in last name.

Regarding the reason why Keidanren requested the government to establish a selective marital separation system, ““For women who are active internationally, the same-sex marriage system is an impediment to career formation,” he said. “In some cases, researchers do not recognize the results of papers they wrote before changing their gender.”” He explained. As a result of Keidanren’s survey of 273 member companies in 2020 on ‘social systems that need to be reviewed or introduced to help women’s performance,’ 46 chose the ‘same sex system for married couples.’

“I feel abandoned when I change my last name.”

On the 19th of last month, the 'Whispering Group (Bosoboso Katarukai)', which is campaigning for the introduction of a selective marital separation system in Kagawa Prefecture, Japan, submitted a written opinion to the government for the introduction of a selective marital separation system by all local government councils in Kagawa Prefecture on the 19th of last month. I posted an article saying that I had chosen to submit it to .  Bosoboso Katarukai Ex Capture

On the 19th of last month, the ‘Whispering Group (Bosoboso Katarukai)’, which is campaigning for the introduction of a selective marital separation system in Kagawa Prefecture, Japan, submitted a written opinion to the government for the introduction of a selective marital separation system by all local government councils in Kagawa Prefecture on the 19th of last month. I posted an article saying that I had chosen to submit it to . Bosoboso Katarukai Ex Capture

On the 19th of last month Japan’s Kagawa Prefectural Assembly and the 17 local government councils in the prefecture both submitted opinions to the government stating that “legislation of the selective marital separation system is necessary.”I decided to do it. Among Japan’s 47 prefectures (equivalent to metropolitan governments in Korea), Kagawa Prefecture is the first to have the entire local government council adopt the submission of opinions.

Noriko Yamashita (51), representative of the Whispering Group (Bosoboso Katarukai), which campaigned for the adoption of the opinion in Kagawa Prefecture, said, “It is meaningful in itself that a local council has expressed the opinion that the same-sex marriage system should be changed.” “I received a call from an organization working to introduce a selective couple separation system saying, ‘Thanks to you, I am able to work harder.’ I expect this movement to spread further,” he said.

Recently, research results that surprised the Japanese people were also released. Hiroshi Yoshida, a professor at the Economic and Social Aging Research Center at Tohoku University, said on the 1st, Research results show that if the same-sex marriage system is maintained, the last names of all Japanese citizens will be unified as ‘Sato’ by 2531.announced. Sato is the most common surname in Japan. Professor Yoshida predicted, “Last year, the Sato surname increased by 0.83%, and if the number of people changing to the Sato surname increases due to the same-sex marriage system, 50% of Japanese people will have Sato in 2446, and 100% in 2531.”

As Japanese society is slowly moving forward, the number of women who have hopes of being able to use their old surnames again is increasing. Although there are expectations that inconveniences experienced in daily life will be reduced, Above all, the expectation of being able to regain one’s identityis bigger. Yoshimura said, “When I submitted my marriage registration, I cried without realizing it because I thought, ‘I can’t use this last name anymore.’ I felt like I was being abandoned by society. I hope the day will come soon when I can proudly use my old last name.” “I hope you come,” he said.

Tokyo= Ryuho correspondent