The court petitioner, the eldest daughter of a registered successor of an “ancestor worship guild,” was prohibited from inheriting the status of successor after her father’s death due to internal regulations of the guild, which only allow male heirs.” The lower courts dismissed the petitioner’s claims, and the Constitutional Court affirmed. The court held that the internal regulation of the guild was not a “statute” or “administrative regulation” and was therefore ineligible for a petition of interpretation on constitutionality under the Constitutional Interpretation Procedure Act. The court also found that Article 4 of the Statutes Governing Ancestor Worship Guilds, which stipulates that “for the guilds that existed before the promulgation of the Statutes, whether a person is a qualified successor to a guild should be determined by its internal regulations,” was not unconstitutional because the provision does not provide gender as a criterion for determining the status of the successor, and the objective is to preserve the stability of the law and to uphold the principle of prohibiting retroactive law. Moreover, the enactment of internal regulations for guilds should be respected based on freedom of association, property rights, freedom of contract, and the autonomy of private law. Therefore, even though the disputed provision may constitute differential treatment in substance, because it is not arbitrary it is not in conflict with the principle of gender equity nor does it infringe women’s right to property. However, the Constitutional Court urged relevant government agencies to review the related law to ensure that they are keeping pace with the times, taking into consideration the State’s positive duty to protect women under the Constitution, the principle of stability of law, changes in social conditions, and the adjustment of functions within an ancestor worship guild, so as to conform to the principle of gender equality and the constitutional intent to safeguard the people's freedom of association, property rights, and freedom of contract.
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