Divorce lawyer unveils ugly side of marriages

There is a Russian proverb, “If you go to war pray once; if you go on a sea journey pray twice; but pray three times if you are going to be married.” One lawyer, who specializes in divorce cases, couldn’t agree more.

“Everyone gets married to be happy - nobody expects a divorce to end their marriage. But, if you see how many couples end up divorcing, the number is just startling,” Lee In-chul, 39, said in a recent interview with The Korea Times.

According to Statistics Korea, 320,000 couples tied the knot in 2010 and 120,000 pairs divorced. More recently, 9,400 couples split up this January, 400 more than the same month last year.

Although “personality differences” is the most common reason cited for such break-ups, the truth is often much more complicated, Lee said.

“Domestic violence and cheating are involved in many divorce cases,” said Lee, noting that he once saw a female client who had been beaten black and blue, all over her body.

Lee said marriages based on external qualities such as money or a spouse’s social status are more likely to end unhappily than those built on love and trust.

“Your husband may change his job, your wife might not bring the goods she promised; once you get married, there will be plenty of other things to fight about. Relationships based on such conditions suffer when the conditions change, and that happens often,” the married lawyer said.

A divorce can be a long-running battle that sometimes takes years to complete. Happiness may not necessarily be waiting at the end of the exhausting fight, Lee said, therefore those with marriage troubles should think twice before making a life-changing decision, especially if they have children.

After passing the bar exam in 2002, Lee completed the required courses at the Judicial Research and Training Institute and started his law career in 2005. The then novice lawyer soon found few males specialized in family law, and wondered why.

“Men account for a half of all couples and therefore divorce cases. I thought there definitely was a need,” Lee said. With his good looks and clever talk, Lee soon became well-known through appearances on television shows.

After the law school system was introduced here in 2009, the first batch of 1,500 graduates entered the job market last year, and the nation has seen its biggest number of unemployed lawyers since. Lee said, the job market for lawyers is “the worst ever” and is only expected to worsen. Lawyers’ jobs are limited only to lawsuits and consultations here where licensed agents who specialize in patents, real estate and many other areas do what is considered “lawyers’ work” in countries such as the United States.

Lee’s career nonetheless has been an exception. Recently, he opened the Win Law Lawfirm and started providing an English service because of rising demand for legal services from foreigners.

“My goal is to establish an alliance with lawyers around the world to provide quality family legal services,” Lee said.