In Asian countries, most people see inheriting one? parent? property as a matter of course. However, Asia? inheritance system did not appear accidentally. Its basis began forming centuries ago as a form of law.
The history of the inheritance system can be classified into two types; primogeniture and multigeniture. In primogeniture, the eldest son had privilege over his siblings and inherited property from his father. He also had the privilege of getting married early while the others did not. In fact, the other sons had to immigrate to a different city. This system caused stagnancy in the population growth. In multigeniture, property was distributed equally among all children including the daughters. This went beyond receiving part of the property ?it provided more intention and motivation for labor. Knowing that more acquirement meant more shares of assets received, the inheritors strived harder to increase output, which directly related to productivity. The increase in productivity resulted in an increase in economic efficiency.
The relationship between economic efficiency and the inheritance law attracted the attention of Adam Smith during the time when Europe had feudal law and only the lords held power and property. Smith opposed Feudalism by introducing modern law, which had already been practiced in Asia earlier. In ?he Wealth of Nations,?Smith mentioned, the gap in material well-being between West and East he realized that Asian countries had better knowledge and understanding on law and that it was ahead of the West. He studied the inheritance law of Asia through missionaries who had visited Asia. The economic benefits flowing from Inheritance law helped mold was one of the reasons that made the living standards of Asia higher than those of Europe in the 18th century.
The inheritance system did not appear overnight. It had its origins early in the history beginning the inheritance law. Many scholars, attracted to this law, began studying about it since the early 17th and 18th century. Even the famous scholars such as Adam Smith and Voltaire contributed great amount of time and effort in studying, analyzing and recording this law system. Through these many efforts, the inheritance law established its basis and has now developed into a system that is premier among the Asian countries.
-By Kim Sung-yoon(Sungkyunkwan Univ., 3)